Publisher EA has bowed to the ever-growing pressure being heaped on Star Wars Battlefront II by disabling the game’s microtransactions completely.
The move can be seen as a victory for the vocal critics who have being piling on the publisher non-stop for the last couple of weeks. EA, however, has made it clear that intends to reintroduce currency purchases at some stage down the line once it feels it has correctly balanced the shooter’s ecosystem.
“As we approach the worldwide launch, it's clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right,” DICE GM Oskar Gabrielson said.
“We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.”
Ultimately, this can be viewed as a reduction in choice. Those who didn’t want to spend money on microtransactions never had to, and any that might have chosen to – which, make no mistake, some people undoubtedly would have done – now cannot.
Is that a positive move? Certainly if the system that was previously in place had given paying customers an unfair advantage, then yes. Although if EA’s argument in its Reddit AMA that matchmaking would ensure players would only face off against others with similar loadouts is correct, perhaps that isn’t the case.
If nothing else the lesson here is most definitely that while customers will accept microtransactions in certain situations, their presence in full-price triple-A games will be divisive. That is unless such purchases are wholly separate to player progression and character levelling. Overwatch remains the shining example here, with its cosmetic purchases being largely controversy-free.
But like all things, this is not a level playing field. Take fellow Blizzard title Hearthstone, for example. It’s hard to think of another game whose odds are stacked so heavily in favour of the big-spending player, but while there has been growing annoyance at its buying model, it has suffered none of the headline-grabbing hostility endured by Battlefront 2. Perhaps that’s a result of it being a fantasy card game and not a mainstream movie license.
If microtransactions in triple-A games do prove unviable, however, the question must be what comes next. A return to Season Passes? They were never popular, although certainly they rarely engendered the same level of fury we’ve seen here. And the fact remains that if microtransactions will not be tolerated, something else must rise in their place – the only alternative is the end of the triple-A big budget console title. Some would likely celebrate that news too, but in an industry where it’s imperative to cater to all tastes, the demise of gaming’s equivalent of the summer blockbuster would be entirely detrimental.