Electronic Arts doesn’t want to stop using loot boxes, but it also doesn’t like when you yell. Caught between a desire to make money and avoid your angry shouting, the publisher is announcing that it has reworked all of Star Wars: Battlefront II’s progression and microtransaction systems.
The sci-fi adventure shooter set in Disney’s galaxy far, far away still has loot boxes, but you cannot buy them. Instead, they are part of a daily login bonus system. The only microtransactions in Battlefront II are now direct purchase cosmetic items. Developer DICE spent the last few months adding extra customization options to encourage players to spend money on this new system that no longer confers gameplay bonuses. As I reported last year, EA considered doing only cosmetics, but working with Lucasfilm on the approval process proved difficult.
While many critics of the gaming industry have taken a stand against loot boxes in any form, many games are getting away with only offering up cosmetics without attracting hordes of enraged fans. With Battlefront II, EA has learned that lesson — although you can still expect to see modes like FIFA Ultimate Team that offer more options for people to pay to improve their in-game capabilities.
Battlefront II’s problems went deeper than its in-game business model, though. DICE built the entire progression system around Star Card buffs, and you could not easily earn those at any regular interval. Instead, players had to hope to get certain improvements out of loot boxes — even when EA removed the option to make in-game purchases the day before Battlefront II’s release. I hated this, and I know many other players weren’t satisfied with this experience. But DICE has changed this as well.
The studio is dropping the randomized card system from Battlefront II. In its place, the shooter will have a linear skill tree where players unlock upgrades at predetermined class levels. This sounds like the kind of tried-and-proven progression that we’ve had in blockbuster online multiplayer shooters since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
These massive changes represent EA waving a white flag at players. Fans hated the progression system and microtransactions with such a passion that they made an EA account reply on Reddit the most downvoted comment in the history of that site.
But consumers didn’t stop with outrage directed at EA. Fans took their concerns to the media and to legislators around the world. We’ve started hearing policymakers talking about Star Wars: Battlefront II but only in the context of illegal gambling and new regulations.
With this update, EA is trying to tell gamers that they won and we should all move on. And while I’m not sure that these changes will get people back into Battlefront II — it seems too late for that — this is a lot more about EA showing that it can do a system that works so people don’t hesitate to buy the next Star Wars game.