– by Campbell Clark

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 from EA was officially released at midnight Friday morning. However, it has been available to play for people with EA access (on Xbox only) and those who purchased special editions for most of last week. The game is out now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

It’s no coincidence that SW: BF2 has been released less than a month from Disney’s massive Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie debut. In fact they used the same tactic for 2015’s The Force Awakens when the first EA-led Battlefront game was released under a month before that movie’s debut. That’s marketing for you, although in this instance, the marketing has not exactly gone down like either Disney or EA imagined.

It became clear to fans who had early access to the game that, despite this game being a full priced AAA title, it had built-in  “pay to win” mechanics the likes of which are normally only seen in free to purchase games, who make their money only after you begin playing. It’s hard to be too critical of games like those, because they don’t cost you a dime to start playing in the first place. Putting these mechanics into full priced games, however, is frankly corporate greed. Sadly, EA has been slowly implementing this into their games more and more over the years, and quietly getting away with it. FIFA, Madden & MLB games all have micro transactions which improve the gear or stats that gamers can use, things which otherwise would take an age to unlock naturally. FIFA has been heavily criticised this year already after fans were able to improve their squads too easily on their own, thus causing EA to put artificial obstacles into the game to prevent you from ranking up too quickly, and steering you towards using real money to buy the progress instead.

But with SW: BF2 it seems they simply went too far with the wrong franchise, and it has caused an almighty wave of rebellion from fans. Despite fans praising both the visuals and the gameplay, sales have been hit badly by online campaigns to boycott the franchise until EA is forced to take action, with the SW: BF subreddit being on the front line of the campaign. Pre-orders were canceled en masse, and EA developers were roasted in a recent AMA hosted on the subreddit, not only that, but fans who worked for some stores were celebrating as they announced how few games were being sold in the stores they work in across the world.

Fan power has become far more prominent in recent years thanks to the rise of social media across the globe. We have seen fan power influence games such as Destiny 2, which the developers are frantically trying to salvage as we speak. We’ve even seen the seas of change the movie industry, where fan power seems to have had a lot of influence on the changes being worked on for the DCEU. It seems like fans have had enough, and won’t accept poor quality any more for their hard earned cash. The ripple effects from this campaign could hopefully start to spread across the gaming industry like a stone cast into a pool.

Related article: The Biggest Problem With Destiny 2

The problem with micro transactions of this kind is relatively straightforward. It’s a greedy practice, and it has also been linked heavily to gambling, with Belgium recently announcing they are looking into classifying micro transactions like this as a form of gambling, which is available to minors. I must point out that in many ways these micro transactions can be a good thing in certain games if implemented correctly.

The best example of this is probably the world wide smash hit Overwatch from developers Blizzard. Yes, on Overwatch you can purchase loot crates, which enable to you to get cosmetic items at a much faster rate than game play alone, however the key word here is cosmetic. On Overwatch the items you can earn through game play and also purchase with money are cosmetic only, they involve emotes, skins, voice lines and have absolutely zero effect on the game play itself. This means you are in no way forced to buy loot crates to keep up with the other players. The money gained from selling these cosmetics is used to provide continual free updates to the game including new characters, maps and special events.

The major difference in SW: BF2 was that major gameplay functionality was locked behind many hours of gameplay, or alternatively, with a little bit more money, you could have a chance to get them all right away. Now, whichever way you slant this, to me, is applying the characteristics of gambling into the lives of children.

A few fans even went to the subreddit to declare they had become addicted to gambling through mechanisms like this in other games. This is the reason countries like Belgium and probably others are starting to carefully look at amending their laws to prevent this form of gambling exposure to kids. You want something badly, and if you pay us money we won’t give you it, but we will give you a chance to win it, if you do not have success, please purchase more random loot crates. That’s gambling!

I am sure you can imagine the wave of negative press this has caused for EA, but also the Star Wars brand, which as we all know is controlled by Disney. Although Disney is not directly involved in EA’s decisions that we know of, they are still the parent company who gave the rights of this mega franchise into the hands of EA exclusively to make video games. It is clear that panic has set in, what if this negative wave of energy carried over into The Last Jedi? Some fans were attempting to start a boycott of Rian Johnson’s new movie until Disney either remove the license from EA or force them to change the model of the game, so it is possible, though this further boycott has not gained much traction…yet.

Well, it was announced on Friday’s release date by EA that the micro transactions in SW: BF2 have been ‘temporarily’ removed for all players, so that gameplay itself is currently the only way to progress in the game. A victory for the campaigners, but a small one, as fans feel that EA is merely delaying this strategy to actually shift games off the store shelves and once they do so, the pay to win mechanics will be brought back in.

After all, they have not reduced the absolute grind required to unlock some of these features from the game, but at least the playing field (for the moment) should be more balanced. This is merely being seen as a half measure from fans, who are vowing to continue their boycott until EA make a permanent change to the game play so that the game play hours required to unlock items are on a reasonable level.

Many of the fans have already done the calculations and worked out that certain abilities and weapons would require 6 months plus of gaming as a full time job to unlock. It has also been strongly hinted that Disney may have stepped in to try and end the negative PR surrounded their biggest franchise and forced EA to back down , when it seemed they were dead set on refusing to do so as per the statements released prior to this latest decision. This new fight has started to gather support from people who believe in the cause without having any personal interest in Star Wars or the game itself.

For me, pay to win in any game is a cancer, and as a parent I have had to refuse to buy loot crates for my son on more than a few occasions. I do accept the fact that in games like Overwatch and GTA 5 online that updates do not cost anything, specifically because of the money being generated by these sales. It seems that loot crates are here to stay, but hopefully with a proper balance and certainly without any pay to win options and feature cosmetic rewards alone.

Time will tell how far this mini rebellion will progress and it seems fairly easy for EA to simply create character skins and cosmetic items for sale that Do NOT affect game play and enable them to still make good money from this game to support their free DLC model. I for one am right behind this campaign and I hope that you readers get behind it as well, it is a form of gambling and it IS aimed at children…This MUST STOP!

What do you think about this rebellion and boycott? Share your opinions in the comments below as always and share articles like this and those from other outlets to friends and parents that are unaware of these practices so we can help protect our children from the dangers of gambling.

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