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For the past couple of weeks, anyone with access to the internet will have heard about the Loot Box controversy involving EA's newest game Star Wars Battlefront II. The general gist of the criticism falls upon the notion that the developers had made it so difficult to unlock their favourite characters in the game without paying more money, that if the player really wanted these characters, then they would be compelled to fork out the dough.
Micro transactions are nothing new in gaming, they're in game purchases that allow someone to expand upon their experience; whether it be to access new maps, characters, or weapons, they have existed in some degree for the past couple of years, so what started all this? Well it may be liked back to a response by one of their marketing team on Reddit to a criticism directed at the game quoted below;
"The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.
As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we're looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we'll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay.
We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets.
Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can."
To date this comment has more than 670,000 downvotes and is the most unpopular comment to ever be posted on the website. The comment itself seems to completely disregard the legitimate concerns and frustrations expressed by players about people being able to buy an advantage, and that such loot boxes are a form of gambling, which parents thinking of buying Battlefront for their kids may have worries about.
In response to the outrage, EA backpeddled pretty spectacularly by first lowering the achievement targets to make it easier for players to obtain new characters by playing the game, and then outright removing the loot boxes from the game, for now... in light of the anger though, the House of Mouse apparently had stepped in. Such a furor can bring negative light one of Disney's hottest IPs, and they certainly can't risk that, so what's the solution?
Fans have put together a petition, which is gaining traction, to end the exclusivity deal EA has with Disney to produce videogames based on the Star Wars IP, and you know what? I'm all for that. Not because I'm overly offended by the Loot Boxes fiasco, but because it's never a bad thing to open up such an IP to other developers to have a go at something creative. By making such a thing exclusive, this limits the creativity diversity of games that would likely be produced, and would likely limit them only to games that tell a story focusing largely around the Skywalker saga. While Battlefront is by no means a bad game, it is essentially Call of Duty, or Battlefield, with a Star Wars skin, but fans want and need something different, something fresh and new, and opening up the floor to developers can encourage that innovation.
EA have fucked up over Loot Boxes, but for us gamers, the potential ramifications may wind up being a good thing. It tells developers that we don't want Loot Boxes, and it tells them that when push comes to shove, the gaming community will shove harder when it appears that a developer is abusing its position in the market. This is evidenced by the disappointing sales for Battlefront II, despite it appearing to be a vast improvement on the original. So will the big companies learn from this? Probably not, but the smaller companies will use this to move back a few paces and give the gaming community what they always wanted, the fun, with none of the gambling, and even less of the money being spent to win.