Battlefront 2 was a surprise hit in the beta for a lot of people. Everybody was coming out of the woodwork to say that the flow and feel of the game is a much more exciting and tighter experience than the previous entry ever was, and EA has even said that the content included in the game upon launch will actually be a full game for once as opposed to a shell of the original Battlefronts. Yet in this industry any good news has a caveat: Battlefront 2 features loot boxes, and has it tied directly into the game’s progression. Since the reveal and YouTube backlash against the practice, EA has reportedly toned down and “listened” to the community, but while it may seem like a small victory I’m more than certain this was a planned maneuver. In what is possibly my most absurd article yet, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t buy Battlefront 2. I can feel the hate brewing from the depths of the internet already.
It’s on the people for being irresponsible with gambling. Why should it be banned here when it exists elsewhere just fine?
This is a statement I see all the time online, and beyond being a classic case of victim-blaming and untrue, it’s also one that’s ignoring a lot of factors.
First is the fact that just because one individual is immune to the addiction of gambling, addictive personalities are a real thing and affect a large number of people, usually in subtle ways. It’s not a conscious decision, but rather completely involuntary. I’m sure everybody had an instance of compulsion when they felt that when something basic didn’t work out they should give it another attempt because maybe “third time’s the charm.” Much like how some people lose track of time playing a fun video game, others lose track of how many attempts they made when gambling.
The second thing about gambling, beyond the fact that it is inherently a predatory practice, is that it already has its own place among casinos and online websites specifically for that sort of thing. If people want to go gamble, they go to a casino. If people want to play games, they want to play games, not gamble. However, now gambling is ingrained into gameplay, especially in genres that have no connection to gambling whatsoever. There is no way to avoid it. They’re also affecting people who are probably not interested in gambling at all, but since they’re hooked on videogames, now they don’t have a choice.
It’d be like a going to a bar and ordering a drink only for the bartender to tell you that he slipped a dose of cocaine in every bottle “for the best user experience.” Now you can’t have your drink without avoiding the drug.
Any argument involving “it’s just cosmetic” or “at least it’s balanced” doesn’t ever address the fact that we have one addictive substance - the gamplay loop itself - mixed with another one - the gambling. Even if some individuals could ignore the siren’s song of opening lootboxes, that doesn’t mean others could. Some say we should just leave these people hung out to dry, that if they’re “stupid enough to buy into the lootboxes, then they deserve to part with their money.” I disagree. Most of the time these people aren’t doing this of their own volition: They’re goaded into it in tiny but numerous ways. From the way you can’t open engrams in Destiny 2 without going to the microtransaction store even if you found one without purchasing, to the way Activision has literally patented a method to encourage players to buy more microtransactions, our subconscious is being constantly bombarded and manipulated. And it’s only a matter of time before we who claim are invulnerable to such a thing fall sucker to it as well.
They said they adjusted the microtransaction system to be a lot more fair after player feedback. Why not buy it now to support the decision?
This is a marketing tactic that’s called the “door-in-the-face.” For those who don’t know, basically this practice is essentially a means of making a consumer feel more comfortable with a proposal they would ordinarily find unacceptable by taking things to the extreme and then dialing it down to something more agreeable by comparison - which happens to be the intended proposal in the first place.
This is exactly what Star Wars Battlefront 2 is employing here, and it’s not hard to see if you consider everything. If you look at the letter that EA gave to address the lootboxes, you’ll notice that the concern hasn’t actually been addressed: players can still actually purchase better gear for real money via multiple exposure to loot boxes that they wouldn’t otherwise get through gameplay. Regardless of all the other changes it made, such as allegedly pushing to have the best items locked behind achievements, that doesn’t change the fact that the primary progression system in the game is still loot boxes, which are still completely random, and which are designed so so they can encourage the players to spend more money for extra lootboxes. The advantage in the game is still given to those who first splurge a lot of money to get the most loot boxes, and then use the upgrade from the loot boxes towards getting achievement items. The problem that we had with the system in the first place is still there; it just doesn’t sound so bad now that we’ve seen it at its very worst, only to have it dialed back into something ever so slightly more manageable.
This is the product that EA had completely intended to sell. Of course, if they manage to get away without any controversy whatsoever, they would have kept the system as is. That’s how door-in-the-face works, and that’s exactly what EA is doing. It’s hard to imagine the next game won’t have even more egregious forms of microtransactions only to backpedal to what EA has originally done with the Battlefront 2 beta. If even still that seems doubtful to you, just look at all microtransactions have progressed over time. The pattern is practically a straight line.
But what if I just don’t buy the lootboxes?
Buying the game but not buying the microtransactions is a form of protest I hear very often. It is the one that makes the most sense after all. You want to tell the publishers that you don’t care for the practice, but you do want to tell them that you care for the game. Unfortunately, that’s not actually how it works. Ethan Levy wrote an article explaining exactly just how microtransactions make their profit and the reality is that most of the people who play these games don’t actually purchase the microtransactions to begin with.
Whether it’s a form of protest or they take the notion that the microtransactions are optional to heart, the fact of the matter is that only a small number of people need to indulge in the microtransactions in order for it to be worth the effort for a publisher. Sometimes it even offsets the lost sales of people who decide not to purchase the game because of a select few “whales.” Even if nobody ended up buying the microtransactions to begin with, as long as they’re getting the base game sales then adding the system wouldn’t have costed them anything. In fact, from a business standpoint, it would actually be wiser to make a sequel which pushes the microtransactions even further, like Destiny 2 did with the shaders. This is especially true if a franchise becomes something of a phenomenon. Even Overwatch pulled this off with limited-time seasonal lootboxes, pushing the system to be much more desireable than it would ordinarily be; I can grind to my heart’s content to get that one base-game skin I want, but if I want that sexy new Symmetra skin that the entire internet is raving over to show off to my friends, I’d better be ready to be at the computer for loooong hours at a time. Or, do the faster and more reliable thing, and just buy more loot boxes until the event is over.
This has been happening since the beginning of microtransaction in full price titles. More and more they are becoming a necessity to the player; whether it’s a social thing, such as customization options, or a progression thing, such as Battlefront’s loot boxes, microtransactions have never been so far in the forefront before, where they’re just about unavoidable to at least witness if not a purchase. It may be considered a stretch to say that 100% pay to win in $60 games will be the acceptable norm very soon, but it was once considered a stretch that Battlefront 2’s loot system would be a thing, just as it was a stretch that mobile-style loot boxes would be a thing for cosmetic items as well.
So just avoid the game altogether?
As hard as it sounds to do, its seems to be the only solution. This actually all does stem from the fact that we are not purchasing microtransactions but are purchasing the base game itself. At best, such a practice was only making the process of getting to the 100% pay to win game a slower grind for the studios, but in no way did it actually stop them from wanting to make it a reality. There really is no other way to avoid this crap other than to completely skip out on Battlefront 2 unless they remove microtransactions in their entirety. Is this behaviour “entitled?” Sure. But I think it’s about time we can get a little selfish, especially if the whole industry is only going to get worse from here.
True, only a small audience would be reading this, and there’ll be plenty of people buying the game - especially fans of Star Wars who are not all that much fans of video games - and even if everybody decided not to buy Battlefront 2 there’d still be plenty of games releasing after words that would have just as bad if not worse microtransactions for a while to come after. But it’d be a step, one that might at least draw the line in the sand for a short while if nothing else, and one that might leave a footprint for others to follow.
I understand the fear of missing out, especially considering the game itself is really quite good and a massive improvement over the original reboot.
But hey, the original Battlefront 2 has online again, and the game really does hold up quite well. Maybe it’ll be enough to tide us over in the meantime.