Oh, DICE … Sometimes it’s better to not say a thing when it comes to a blunder you don’t want people to remember.
If you’re a Star Wars fan or a fan of just shooters in general, you remember 2017’s Star Wars Battlefront II loot box debacle. It was so big that mainstream media picked up on it, and some reports even came in claiming that Disney, who owns the Star Wars IP, threatened to pull the plug with its EA partnership due to how out of hand it was becoming.
While players may not have liked what EA had planned for the game (myself included), even the studio who developed Battlefront 2 felt the backlash. DICE Design Director of Star Wars Battlefront 2, Dennis Brannvall, says that due to the Battlefront 2 loot box controversy, the studio hit “rock bottom” in terms of player sentiment.
“We hit rock bottom in terms of player sentiment but now it’s climbing every month. We’re delivering more content this year than we did in the first year, which is also a sign of a healthy game. The community’s happier than it’s ever been, especially with the big announcement yesterday. I think we had to take a step back, the team had to look at itself in the mirror a little bit, pick ourselves up from a really rough Christmas for everyone and then just get back to work”. – Dennis Brannvall (DICE Design Director)
I don’t know about you, but this feels like a very PR thing to say and, personally, I wouldn’t have said a thing whatsoever. The game, while it has been recovering, still has a stigma about it. Once the beta of the game hit consoles and PCs and everyone saw how badly the microtransactions and loot boxes were implemented and prioritized over the actual gameplay, the game was simply pay-to-win. Once people got wind of what was going on, it got a major backlash because taking 173 hours to unlock all the characters, without paying a single dollar, is insane!
When EA heard the backlash though, they sent out one of their community managers to Reddit to calm the storm, but instead made it so much worse. That rep was claiming that massive grind was there “to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment.” EA even had DICE just tweak the system to keep it pay-to-win. Only when the backlash was reaching severe levels they decided that it wasn’t going to work … so they pulled they system out. Over on Metacritic, the user score still sits at a 1.1 for a user score, reflecting what happened.
Moreover, the outcry was heard not just across the gaming industry but by politicians and government officials all over the world — the consequences of which the industry is still dealing with today.
I know hindsight is 20/20, but this is one of those things that shouldn’t require hindsight. You had a QA team go over the game before it ever reached the public, and if you thought that people were going to just roll over and accept what was being done at that time, then you are sadly mistaken.
While the game may have recovered, and microtransactions may have returned for cosmetic items, the disdain for what EA and EA DICE have done is still there and will likely be for years to come.