Following the intense backlash, Electronic Arts has responded to player complaints about the loot box system in “Star Wars Battlefront II” in an unexpected way – the game has now disabled in-game purchases including the option to purchase crystals… at least temporarily.
EA says they will re-instate the ability to purchase crystals “only after we’ve made changes to the game”. DICE GM Oskar Gabrielson released the following statement in a press release:
“Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows. You’ve seen this with both the major adjustments, and polish, we have made over the past several weeks.
But 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.
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.
We have created a game that is built on your input, and it will continue to evolve and grow. Star Wars Battlefront II is three times the size of the previous game, bringing to life a brand new Star Wars story, space battles, epic new multiplayer experiences across all three Star Wars eras, with more free content to come. We want you to enjoy it, so please keep your thoughts coming. And we will keep you updated on our progress.”
The move is seen as being the minimum EA can do following the outcry against the micro-transaction and loot box system that has been implemented in the game which heavily pushed players to spend more actual money within the game to receive advantages and to unlock characters who would otherwise take dozens of hours to access. Effectively it promoted a ‘pay-to-win’ strategy.
This move now means all progression in “Star Wars Battlefront II” will be earned through playing the game – for now. EA does note they plan to bring back crystals at a later date after making balancing and tuning changes. Whether it will be enough to change anyone’s mind is unclear as the bad PR from this incident has led to cancellations of pre-orders and could have an impact on sales.
There’s also another complication. Both “Battlefront II” and last year’s “Overwatch” are being singled out by the Belgian Gaming Commission, the gambling authority in Belgium, who has launched an investigation into the titles to determine if loot boxes in those games constitute gambling reports GameSpot.
Because of the random nature of loot boxes, where you pay money to receive a random selection of items, they are being seen as falling under the rules of ‘games of chance’ (ala gambling) and thus require a permit from the Gaming Commission. If the investigation rules it as such, not only would Electronic Arts and Blizzard face huge fines but also could see their product pulled from sale in Belgium.
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime says “Overwatch” does not belong in the loot box controversy discussion because the game only offers cosmetic items in its crates, as opposed to “Battlefront II” where it’s a case of items that can impact gameplay and progress. The U.S. Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has previously ruled loot boxes as NOT constituting gambling because the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content – even if it’s something they don’t want.