Gaming Editor Roshni Patel takes a look at the announcement of World of Warcraft's 7th expansion, Battle for AzerothWritten by Roshni Patel on 20th November 2017
Online Fury Forces EA To Slash Hero Prices In Star Wars Battlefront II
Gaming Editor Emma Kent analyses EA's PR nightmare and speedy U-turn on the price of heroes in the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II
In just over 24 hours, EA has managed to rack up a staggering -507,000 points on one single Reddit comment. This is just at the time of writing, and likely to increase further. According to a wiki page on Reddit, this makes it the most downvoted comment ever posted in the website's history.
EA's comment attempted to defend its Star Wars Battlefront II credit system, which forced players to either grind in-game to earn credits, or buy loot crates to get extra credits and speed up the process of unlocking top heroes (such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker). The online backlash began when one Redditer calculated that it would take 40 hours of gameplay to afford one of these heroes through purely in-game grinding.
“EA has buckled under the staggering online pressure
EA tried to defend itself by claiming that this was a way for players to achieve "a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes". Redditers, however, were having none of it. Many argued that the system was designed to frustrate players into purchasing microtransactions. Others pointed out that they were already paying full price for the game, and were furious at the thought of having to spend more to unlock beloved characters. Some Redditers were so enraged that they threatened to cancel their preorders and boycott the game entirely.
It now seems that EA has buckled under the staggering online pressure, announcing last night that it would slash the price of top heroes like Vader by 75% (from 60,000 credits to 15,000). In its post, EA claimed that it had 'listened to fans', and that the new cost would provide a sense of achievement whilst still being accessible.
The infamous Reddit comment (at time of writing)
Reflections and analysis
Only time will tell if EA can avoid a loss in profits as a result of this game design mis-step and PR debacle. Although many online are happy that EA has 'listened', an equal amount are still angry with the company for even considering that the system design was acceptable. Having said that, Shadow of War came under heavy fire this year for including microtransactions, yet community outrage ultimately did not affect sales.
This sudden reversal does seem to prove that EA is capable of changing its mind, and that consumers will start revolting when pushed too far on microtransactions. In some ways, it's a welcome relief to see gamers protest against aggressive microtransactions marketing and be successful.
On a personal level, however, this episode has dramatically damaged my opinion of Star Wars Battlefront II. In a previous review, I gave it a glowing recommendation; finding it to be an entertaining, beautiful and immersive game. Despite how much I loved the game, I now can't help but feel that EA went too far this time. If I were to buy Battlefront II now, I would feel guilty in the knowledge I was encouraging EA to push the boundaries again next time. How many more times must the gaming community intervene to stop developers from extorting money from customers? Will this become a regular occurrence with every AAA release? As sceptical as I am about boycotting, perhaps it would be best to make an example of Star Wars Battlefront II and send a message to all developers; don't get too greedy, or consumers will vote with their feet.
On top of these concerns, my co-editor, Jack Cooper, pointed out to me that although the credit price had dropped, it would still take a 10 hour slog to earn enough for one hero (according to the reddit spreadsheet calculations). This is still a significant amount of time, particularly as you would have to repeat it for each hero locked behind these credit barriers. EA may have removed the very worst of the grind, but they are still trying to tempt players into buying microtransactions to speed up the gameplay.
Finally, would it have killed EA to say sorry? Their entire statement seemed to be an elaborate attempt to avoid any blame. In all honesty, gamers would probably respect them more if they just admitted their mistakes.
So, will I be buying Star Wars Battlefront II when it's released? No. Maybe in the future my position will soften, but for now, despite EA's best efforts, I will not be giving them my money today.