Game studio Electronic Arts’ biggest title of the year launched today, the multiplayer Star Wars Battlefront 2. A sequel to the game of the same name released in 2015, it should have been a high point of the year for the company. Instead it’s a hot mess mired in questionable ethics, bad customer relations and finally, death threats.
Images courtesy: Electronic Arts
Let’s break it down for you. When it was announced months ago, Battlefront 2 looked and sounded like the game Star Wars and indeed shooter fans could be proud of. A multiplayer game set in the sci-fi universe, it pits massive teams of players against each other online, fighting either for the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire. While you play as a foot soldier for parts of the battles, the hook is that you can eventually kill enough players to graduate to using some of the universe’s more recognisable characters like Darth Maul, Han Solo and Boba Fett.
However, EA later announced that players wouldn’t be able to play as their favourite heroes from the start. Instead, players would have to “unlock” them with in-game credits, a feat some estimated would take about 40 hours of gameplay to achieve for the likes of a single character like Darth Vader, priced at 60,000 credits.
That issue was highlighted on Reddit this Sunday, when a poster asked, “Seriously? I paid $80 to have Vader locked?”. Unfortunately, EA’s response to the post was less than abysmal, claiming the system was in place to give players a “sense of pride and accomplishment”. It quickly became the site’s most downvoted comment in history at about -648,000 downvotes and counting. To put that into perspective, the previous most downvoted comment had a score of -24,000.
But not only did players have to grind more game currency to lock heroes they felt should have been playable when they paid for the game, they were also galled by the game’s cash-grabbing loot crate system. They’re basically microtransactions with real money (that you can’t convert into in-game credits) to buy loot crates. Unlocking these then gives the players chances to win buffs and stat boosts to characters, or even heroes. Of course, that’s more money spent for a randomized chance at a prize that should have been available, to begin with.
Ever since, one of the game’s developers who previously posted a disparaging comment about the fans on Twitter (his account is now private) has been facing a deluge of not just personal attacks online, but also at least seven death threats.
EA was already considered an “evil megacorporation” in the gaming industry; a money-grabbing syndicate looking to milk gamers for their hard earned cash. This latest controversy hasn’t helped their reputation one bit, but it’s hard to say how people will react as far as buying the game goes. It’s too late for preorders to be cancelled, but the resentment is likely to propel others to refrain from buying now.
On the other hand, this is Star Wars. That and the fact that not everyone will be equally angered by the whole debacle. More than a few will be willing to look past what they might feel was an eventuality, and instead just try to enjoy reliving their childhood fantasies. But the bitter taste will certainly remain for those who understand what’s going on, and EA isn’t going to be lauded for its efforts anytime soon.