The story so far.
Star Wars Battlefront came out a few years ago and got pretty mediocre reviews. Complaints were mostly that it lacked a single player campaign and in general there wasn’t enough content to justify a price. The developers released additional content over the next year or so, but you had to either buy a Season Pass or buy the DLC as it came out. Few consumers seemed to do so.
As someone who did buy the Season Pass, I regretted it. By the time the new content came out the player base had shrunk to the point where it was hard to get a game together if you wanted to play in the new content, since so few people purchased.
In the meantime, EA put THREE development teams on Star Wars Battlefront 2. DICE was handling the ground based stuff and was the ‘main’ dev, Criterion was working on space combat, and newly formed Motive was working on the single player campaign. In spite of the fact that so many resources were being devoted to the game, it would of course launch at $60, same as it would have 15 years ago.
At some point EA announced that there would be no Season Pass, but they would be continuing to support the game with new maps and modes well past launch. In lieu of a Season Pass they would generate revenue via micro-transactions. At the time, this decision was APPLAUDED since no one likes Season Passes.
Then the Great Loot Crate Riots of 2017 began. Really it started with Middle Earth: Shadow of War. “OMG loot crates in a single player game, the world is ending.” That was a big deal right up until launch when folks starting playing, having fun, and found that buying loot crates with real money was truly optional. (Curiously Assassin’s Creed has had stuff you could buy with real money in its games for the past few iterations but no one really cared. Not sure what Shadow of War did to draw all this ire.) Today, a few weeks after launch, no one seems to be too fussed about Shadow of War having loot crates. It’s a great game. Great enough that I bought it on both PS4 and Xbox One X.
In the meantime the horde had turned on Star Wars Battlefront 2 with its “pay to win” system (which really is a “pay to slightly up/side-grade your character but if you suck you’re still going to lose” system). There was a lot of drama, gamers were livid and again, the world was going to end.
Someone came up with a system that determined it would take thousands of dollars or thousands of hours to “unlock everything.” Of course every gaming blog jumped on that to create more hysteria and ad-revenue. I don’t really believe those numbers, but what I found really fascinating is that people were acting as if the game wouldn’t be fun until everything was unlocked. It’s a ridiculous concept. Think about a game like World of Warcraft. Imagine if there were complaints about how long it would take to collect every piece of gear in that game. Pretty much the same thing here.
People also act as if the gear in SW BF2 is like the gear in Destiny. As if you spawn with a rifle that does 20 damage but you can pay to get a rifle that does 50 damage. But that’s not really how it works. It’s more like you have a rifle that does a lot of damage but has a low rate of fire and you can pay to get a rifle that does less damage but has a higher rate of fire. For the most part weapons are balanced (or intended to be). There are definitely cards and mods that will give you a slight advantage, but it’s not as egregious as the horde would have you believe.
Meanwhile, the game launched early for some players. It was hard to hear but if you could make your way through the loot crate anger you’d find people saying they were having fun playing. You had to be quick because anything you say positive about the game gets quickly downvoted into oblivion on Reddit or comment threads. In today’s toxic online world, you need to be on message with the horde or your opinion doesn’t count.
EA held an AMA on Reddit and tried to respond calmly to the horde but even then, their answers got downvoted to the point you had to really hunt for them. Gamers didn’t want a dialog, they wanted to be pissed.
Thursday night, on the evening of official launch, EA caved. They announced that at launch they would be turning off the ability to buy crystals, the currency you use for making real money transactions. The horde hated pay to win, and so EA shut that system down. At launch no one can say the game is pay-to-win. The voice of the horde was heard and acted on. They won.
The response? Did you think the horde would be happy? You don’t know gamers. Rather than acknowledge that EA is trying to make things right, gamers immediately started pointing at this line: “The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game.” The on-message horde response to the EA announcement is that this is a BS move that they are making for launch and that they’re just going to turn it all back on again once the anger subsides. The hardcore tin-foil hat sect thinks this was all orchestrated from the start. That EA wanted to make gamers pissed so they could make this change at the last minute and seem like good guys. Yeah, right.
This is why we can’t have nice things. We gamers just have so much hate in our hearts that we’re never willing to give a big publisher the benefit of the doubt. We scream at them for doing things wrong but when they try to make things right, we just scream more. There is no winning once the horde has turned against you.
Maybe 2 weeks from now EA will just re-enable things as they are and you can all tell me what a jerk I am and how wrong I was. I don’t think they will. Prior to launch they’d already drastically reduced the cost of heroes based on feedback from the beta. That indicates to me they’re willing to make real changes. I’m not saying EA is an altruistic company. I’m saying they’re a company that wants customers to stick around and wants ‘long tail’ sales. If they just turn the same system back on, they’ll just have angry customers again and people will walk away from the game.
I think they’ll do exactly what they’ve said they would do. That they “… will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning.” before turning real money transactions back on. And of COURSE they’re going to turn them back on at some point. They’re not going to develop and give away additional content for free without any kind of revenue stream.
I just think its sad that the gamer horde seems determined to stay mad even when they ‘win’. I’m not sure what a company can do to disperse the horde, honestly. I’m glad I’m not in the game development business, that’s for sure.