How loot crates and unlocks really work in Star Wars Battlefront 2

battlefront-2-vader-unlock

A long time ago, a man worked out how to merchandise popular entertainment at a hitherto unprecedented level. 40 years later, C-3PO lunchboxes in Woolworths have given way to microtransaction loot crates in EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2. With the game out this week, millions of voices are already crying out in terror about the time and/or costs involved in accessing every character, weapon and rechargeable grenade variant. I’m here to cut through the noise and examine how loot crates, unlocks, payments, and grind work within SWBF2 – and how incorporating this oh-so-2017 goldrush into an online shooter disrupts the experience of playing it.

battlefront-2-star-destroyer

I do want to say up front that even detailing all this stuff requires an ungodly number of words, which speaks to a needless degree of complexity that distracts from the core act of Shooting Some Dudes.

OK! Battlefront 2 has four, for lack of a better word, currencies.

The primary currency is Credits. Credits buy loot crates, which contain randomly-allocated Star Cards (see below), sometimes the crafting resource Scrap (also see below), and sometimes more Credits. Credits also unlock extra Hero characters, who I’ll return to later. You gain some Credits by playing in matches and meeting targets, e.g. kill x dudes while playing as Assault class. I earned around 3,000 credits from half a dozen matches but obviously this can vary.

Completing the singleplayer campaign also offers a chunk of 5,000 Credits. The solo ‘Arcade’ mode rewards Credits too but with a restriction, only giving paying out up to a certain point then not again until the next day. This is both harsh and strange, given that at that point you could just go play some multiplayer – where the unlocks are actually used.

Scrap is the secondary currency, used to craft specific Star Cards and, more importantly, to upgrade Star Cards. Star Cards are how character customisation is handled, representing different or upgraded weapons, active abilities, and passive perk bonuses such as speedier health recharge. Though Scrap is not directly earned through play, it’s the currency you most directly require for upgrades.

swbf2-craft-card

Crystals are the currency sold for real money. These buy the same loot crates as Credits do – i.e. which primarily contain a few randomly-chosen Star Cards. In theory buying Crystals enables you to sidestep the lengthy play matches – earn Credits – buy Crates – get Scrap – build/upgrade Cards loop – but, if you’re after specific cards, the blind bag element means you’ll almost certainly have to buy multiple Crates. Crystals also can’t directly buy Credits or Scrap, but you’re very likely to find some by opening a few crates. Crystals cost:

500 for £3.99/$4.99
1,000 for £7.99/$9.99
2,100 for £15.99/$19.99
4,400 for £31.99/$39.00
12,000 for £79.99/$99.99

Loot crates, meanwhile, cost:

Trooper (cards for general infantry): 4,000 credits / 200 Crystals
Starfighter (cards for spaceships): 2,400 credits/ 120 Crystals
Hero (cards for Star Wars icons such as Luke, Vader, Yoda and, er, Bossk): 2,200 credits / 110 Crystals

So 12,000 Crystals for $100 would buy you 60 Trooper crates (more if you were buying Starfighter or Hero ones), each of which contains from 1-3 random Star Cards – i.e. something between 60 and 180 in total. There are currently 324 Star Cards to acquire, across all classes, vehicles and characters, but clearly the odds of a crate containing a duplicate card only grow as you open more. Some high-level cards are extremely rare, too. As such, spending an additional $100 on your $60 videogame wouldn’t get you even close to having everything (without also putting a lot of hours in, at least), and I suspect the actual spend required to do so could well reach four figures. This is the darkness of loot crates. And, even if $100 was all it took for everything – still very, very dark.

swbf2-loot-crate

The final currency is Battle Points. This is one is significantly different in that it’s not persistent. You earn Battle Points by performing well in matches, and can only spend them in that same match. They allow you to spawn as various vehicles or Hero characters, but for just one life. If you want to spawn as that thing again after you get killed, you’ll need to earn enough Points again. Bluntly, if you don’t score many kills, you’re unlikely to earn enough Battle Points to play as, say, Vader.

After you’ve unlocked him to even be available to activate with Battle Points, of course. The 15,000 Credits price each to unlock Vader and other top-tier Heroes is not a tall order if you’re only after a specific one – you could earn it in a solid couple of hours play, though that really adds up if you want everyone. Before the recent Hero price cuts, they were a whopping 40,000 Credits, which would take dozens of hours and yes, that is somewhat ridiculous.

For what it’s worth, at least some big-name heroes, including Rey and Han Solo, are unlocked from the start – it’s not that all the famous faces are locked behind some paywall. I can, with a squint, just about see this as errant dev/publisher thinking about how big a deal it is to get to play as Darth chuffing Vader (i.e. as the ultimate unlock) rather than necessarily microtransaction greed. But it could go either way.

battlefront-2-vader

(As an aside, if your Star Wars fantasy is simply to kill Rebel scum with Vader’s choky-neck magic, you can do so within three minutes of loading the game – just not in multiplayer. The second Dark Side mission in the singleplayer Arcade mode, which pits players against waves of AI attackers, gives the opportunity to be Vader killing dozens of the devils.)

An arguably overlooked question in all this is whether you need everything? All 324 Star Cards, every costume piece, every grenade variant or minor boost to ability recharge times for every single class, vehicle and hero? Or: will you really play as every class and every character consistently enough to require this stuff? Dunno about you, but I tend to find and then stick to favourites. And: how beneficial, really, are any of these upgrades in a game that consistently boils down to who can most reliably shoot other guys in the head from half a mile away anyway?

But there’s a principle element at work too, isn’t there? We don’t like missing out, we want things we paid for to be complete, we especially don’t like to think that someone with more cash/naivety could skip the hard work we put in. On top of that, we are trained/tricked by oh-so-many games to believe that getting a new thing is necessary, that it will make a real difference, and this is something that Battlefront 2 exploits. I’m not convinced that many of these earned/bought perks are meaningful. Battlefront 2 nonetheless takes blatant advantage of this kind of thinking: it pins so much to so many unlock systems, requiring either a ludicrous time investment or, bitterly cynically, paying for a shortcut. The exploitative nature of the loot crate system – that you don’t know what you’ll get and you might open several before getting something you want – only makes this worse.

swbf2-vader

I don’t like it for reasons beyond that too. It’s a mess of overlapping, abstracted notions, as the sheer length of this description reveals. It’s conceptually at odds with what’s supposed to be a desperate battle between Rebels and Imperials (or the Abrams variants thereof). It’s a whole bunch of noise on the interface. And, worst of all, it often serves to make the actual experience of battle meaningless because all you’re interested in is how much closer it’s taken you to a new crate. It is one of several factors that make this a Star Wars game I don’t particularly enjoy playing, but that’s another story.

However, I would argue that some of the online reaction to Battlefront’s crates and points has occasionally gotten out of hand, or at least missed the underlying issue. Yes, it makes the game pretty darn skeezy in that you can indeed pay to get an early advantage, and even then via a manipulative lottery system, but at no point have I gotten the sense that I need many of the unlocks, and so have felt no temptation to stump up cash. I figure, if I stick with it, I’ll sooner or later gain most of the stuff I actually want for the classes and characters I most enjoy. All of this stuff hinges on our collective belief as players that unlocks are paramount, and clearly SWBF2 and games like it are aggressively fighting to make us succumb to that delusion.

But, for those who do desire the entire experience, being kept at deliberate arm’s length from everything they’ve already paid good money for is a cruel insult, worsened by the glaring option to shortcut the grind with more cash, that is in turn gated behind a blind bag lottery system. Optional or no, it’s a deeply ugly precedent, and worst of all, this cavalcade of currencies, crates and diminishing-return upgrades disrupts the game experience itself. What would ol’ George and his lunchboxes make of all this, I wonder?

Our Battlefront 2 is in the works. The singleplayer campaign will come first, then a multiplayer review.

152 Comments

  1. frymaster says:

    Thanks, this was a very considered write-up.

    The multiplayer progression system doesn’t bother me; I’m only ever going to play the game in single player. That being said, I’ve not even completed (or in most cases bought) the last Deux Ex game, let along Dishonored 2, Prey, Watch Dogs 2, Wolfenstein etc. so I’m not about to rush out and buy it either

    • tbs says:

      I don’t usually pre-order these games, but I did in this case because I wanted to play it.

      I beat the single player last night in about 4.5 hours. I didn’t find all the “hidden” stuff for each mission but I tackled the vast majority of it.

      It’s fun, the story about the new character is kinda stupid. I liked playing as the various other heroes way more. And at the end there is a reference to the new movies and an obvious doorway to DLC when the movie drops. For a single player experience, I thought it was “meh.”

      • joer says:

        4.5 hours for just the single player to be meh sounds really… cost ineffective.

      • Jumpy-B-L says:

        That’s sad, man. You have been seduced by Empire Arts and for love of franchise joined the dark side. Way to go.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Really think this is a watershed moment in how loot boxes will be handled going forward. Its a big name game from a big name company and the most intrusive and egregious use of loot box/micro transactions to date.

      If it turns the kind of profit EA are banking on then the flood gates will open and this kind of pay to win will become the norm, but if it underperforms in EAs eyes then the future will look a little more rosy.

      the bad press has already given EAs stock price a bit of a tumble

  2. Jeremy says:

    I’ve always wondered what meetings had to happen internally to come to the conclusion that four(FOUR!) currencies were the best way to handle unlocks and progression. I mean, obvious money grab aside, this is just complete nonsense from any angle. This has been the trend among AAA titles that has been most disappointing for me, and has effectively prevented me from purchasing any since Shadow of Mordor. Unless Witcher 3 counts. Then also that.

    • Tuidjy says:

      It is necessary. By obscuring the mechanism, the developers obscure the artificial time sink which supports the money grab.

    • MisterForkbeard says:

      Saying it’s FOUR currencies doesn’t really sound right to me. But this is the way it works:

      Credits: Used for loot crates (4000 for a “trooper” crate), used to unlock Heroes. Earned in game, small amounts gotten in Loot Crates.
      Crystals: Can only be used to buy loot crates.
      Scrap: Used to create abilities and upgrade abilities. Earned in Loot Crates and through Challenges.

      Battle points aren’t really a currency – they’re just something you earn in each battle depending on your performance that lets you deploy advanced classes or heroes.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      I read something on the psychology of this stuff that by deliberately obfuscating the link between a real world currency and in game usage it stops people thinking of its real world value. So instead of letting you buy loot crates directly with your money they change it into crystals. A further trick is making it hard to spend all of the intermediary currency, causing people to buy more rather than waste it.

      • khamul says:

        Yes. Note that the cheapest purchase tier gives you 500 crystals, and there’s no combination of loot crates that neatly fits into that. The closest you can get would be 4 x starfighter crates at 480 crystals.
        This is not a coincidence. Would there be any noticeable difference financially if they’d made starfighter crates 125 crystals? Or Hero ones 100 rather than 110? It was done deliberately not to fit neatly, so you’re tempted to buy more rather than let the left-overs go to waste. They’re deliberately trying to trigger the Sunk Cost fallacy.

      • Jeremy says:

        The intermediary currency trick seems particular insidious. Creating pay gates in order to use a game currency that you’re loaded with. Not great.

      • Wolfram86 says:

        Yeah, and Microsoft figured that out ages ago with their MS points, and they really screwed people over by making the amount you purchase never equal to the amount you’ll spend, so you always have to over-buy.

    • ElGordoFreeman says:

      Not a single meeting was needed, just a simple and quick look at the most exploitative mobile games, its common practice to have several currencies

  3. GrumpyCatFace says:

    This is me not playing EA games. :)

    • Someoldguy says:

      Joshua: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”
      WarGames (1983)

  4. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Honestly I think people are overreacting to this particular instance. Reddit, etc.

    But generally speaking the amount of microtransaction/unlocks/pay-to-win/etc in games lately has gotten kinda stupid. While I can understand having to work to unlock Vader, that’d be fine, the option to pay for it means that it’s not about delayed gratification, it’s about punishing folks who don’t want to pay.

    • Dewal says:

      The outrage is not very surprising. (And a bit welcome, I feel)

      As invasive micro (and even macro, sometimes) transactions become more and more common in console & PC games, a lot of people were pissed/afraid. But when nobody talk, nobody talk and it went for some time without any consequence for the publishers.
      This time, EA did something stupid enough to make people publicly denounce it. And even though they corrected it, it’s the first time in a few years that people are able to be heard about this problem and they want to make an example of EA so that the practice dies (or at least get less popular).

      It’s a bit like a revolution. You have years and years of oppression but citizens can’t mobilize alone. So when the last straw break the camel’s back and a crowd movement start, even though maybe the last straw was really just a straw and the guy that did it isn’t really that bad, every one jump on the occasion and he still get lynched for it (meet Louis XVI).

      So even if EA is paying for everyone else, it’s not like they’re particularly innocent to start with.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        It is genuinely scary that people are taking their reaction towards an unpopular feature in a video game and channeling it into terms like “revolution”, “years of oppression”, and “lynched”.

        I get that video games are important to you. That’s why we’re all here, but can we just tone things down a skosh?

        • Someoldguy says:

          It’s called an analogy. in real world revolutions, people got lynched. Here, they just get verbally dissed on reddit.

          • Dewal says:

            Thanks Someoldguy ! Obviously nobody is killing anybody here.

            And even though I think it’s a good thing that transactions are denounced, I’m more a “look at people march in the streets through the window” than “pitchfork & demonstrations” kind of guy. It’s the first time I’m even expressing myself on the subject on the web (because I like the RPS commentary section debates).

        • ElGordoFreeman says:

          Videogame or not there is money involved, and abusive practices to get it, even psychological manipulation and exploiting compulsive behaviour and/or addictive practices.
          Unless its ok to be getting robbed on one context but not on another

        • ElGordoFreeman says:

          Yes it may sound a little extreme but the analogy is good, after years of slowly growing and creeping practices to squish the most money for the least ammountof content people said no in a way big enough to make the stock value of the publisher drop a little, so yeah, calling it a revolution fits the situation imo

        • Titler says:

          Bread and circuses.

          And when there’s no bread, you’d better have damned cheap circuses to distract the people; Take even the circus off them as well, and you’ll get revolution.

          If we were all rolling in money people wouldn’t be so enraged now; instead we’re watching Austerity smash what our parents and grandparents built for decades. Food banks in one of the richest societies that ever existed. There’s a story in today’s Guardian about a woman freezing to death in her home. You have to be blind, or utterly unconcerned to not see that the Bread of society is getting harder and harder to come by for many…

          And then on top of that, the escapism people use to cope with it all is getting priced out of people’s reach; it’s becoming an insidious, nasty little racket that humiliates and exploits people.

          Hence the example someone else gives you of the final straw. On it’s own, it’s not that much. But when set against the wider backdrop…

          If anything, people aren’t angry enough. There’s still far too many that treat the gaming industry as if it’s the same thing as the feelings they have for games in general, and treat it like a Cult, one that they’re part of and which needs to be protected from Evil Outsiders who Just Don’t Get It. “Entitled!” they cry… or “Death Threats!”, a story which turned out to not be true by the way, the guy had never even been employed by EA.

          I have been, by the way. My contract said I couldn’t even state that until 3 years after I left the company. The games industry is not a nice thing at all.

          But it had better learn to be one again, and fast… because people are rightfully getting pissed.

      • TR`Ben says:

        It’s a bit too early to call it a revolution. Protest and demonstration would be more suitable words. We don’t know how well the game and its lootboxes are selling. EA’s shares haven’t tanked. There’s some damage done, true. But is it enough?
        Activision’s COD:IW was a failure, but what are we seing today? COD:WW2 is selling very well (according to gamesindustry’s report).
        What I see is a huge echo chamber full of loud consumers enjoing each other’s hatred towards evil corporation. And EA is very capable of dealing with such situations while wearing a pocker face.

    • MisterForkbeard says:

      One of the things that bugs me about this particular question (the heroes) is that you CAN’T pay for them. They’re obtainable via Credits only, and you can’t buy those directly. You will almost certainly get the vast, vast majority of them by playing in-game.

      Basically, you can use Real Money to buy Loot Crates, which can contain a small amount of credits, usually be received duplicate cards. This is (so far for me) in the real of 200 or so credits per duplicate card. Spending $20 on Crystals would thus get you… approximately 1000-2000 crystals. Maybe.

      Or can you play the game for like… 45 minute and get the same thing. To the extent that “Real Money” lets you buy heroes, it’s mostly in that it lets you not decide between unlocking heroes and getting more loot crates – you can do both at the same time. And given the lackluster results of the crates, I’m basically okay with this.

      • dog2 says:

        You can get a hero in a crate.

        • MisterForkbeard says:

          That must be really rare. I hadn’t seen or heard of that.

          In which case, if you want to pay $80 to get enough crates to make that kinda/sorta likely, you just go right ahead. I’ll put in my 2-5 hours of gametime instead. :)

      • Bull0 says:

        You absolutely can buy them, just not directly – £-crystals-crates-credits-heroes instead of £-credits or £-heroes. It’s expensive, but that’s sort of the point. Why go to the trouble of defending a publisher trying to rinse more money out of players?

        • sosolidshoe says:

          And on top of that, crystals > crates > stat cards + upgrades = faster earning of credits ingame. Spending RL cash *absolutely* gets you Heroes faster & easier than gameplay.

          As for the article – I think in his desire to appear “reasonable” Alec has wandered into the trap of minimising just how outrageous this system is. People’s reaction is by no means excessive, not even slightly – a fully upgraded set of stat cards for fighters, for example, will give you a straight upgrade in damage AND rate of fire AND weapon cooldown reduction that combined will give you more than *double* the damage output of someone using the *same cards* at their basic level, let alone against someone who doesn’t have those cards at all.

          Many of the ground cards and combos are just as egregious – SWBF2 is categorically *not* like CoD; time-to-kill using no cards or basic level cards is nowhere near instant and even landing headshots with the “sniper rifle” style weapons do not guarantee a kill on a full-health player. Being able to *double or more* your damage relative to players lower down on the unlock ladder as well as gain access to powerful one-hit-kill or high area-damage abilities makes a gigantic difference and radically lowers the amount of skill a player needs to display in order to get a kill.

          On top of that, while you don’t *need* literally every single card to the point it’s worth spending a fortune to get them, spending a *small* fortune to get hold of a few powerful cards(and you will get at least a few or mats enough to craft them if you spend enough) will increase your ability to earn Credits sufficiently that you will still become exponentially more powerful over time than some poor schlub trying to “earn” cards by actually, ya know, playing the game.

          There is no excuse for this system. Marginally decreasing the requirements(and the rewards at the same time, which the article doesn’t mention that I saw – recall the campaign *used* to give *20,000* credits for completion not 5000) for heroes and only allowing the very tippy-top tier of card upgrades to be crafted(with Scrap which comes from, oh aye, the lootcrates…) in no way mitigates just how broken and exploitative this thing is.

          This is not your garden variety case of bandwagoning internet nerdrage – every shred of anger being directed towards this system and its creators(short of actual threats, obvie) is entirely justified, and it’s depressing seeing so many games media outlets trying to minimise the problem and paint the backlash as an overreaction.

    • Suedealien says:

      I think there’s a balance. Making the sorts of huge online games with constant support that we, as players, now expect and demand is expensive and getting more expensive, and these are companies looking to profit. So I don’t begrudge them the usual microtransaction BS like in Overwatch and Destiny 2. I can pay $5 to turn my character into a luchador? Okay. I mean, I’m not going to do it, but I’m okay with that being an option, as long as I get a good, complete-feeling game for my $50.

      But every game is about inhabiting a specific fantasy, whether that’s being a super soldier or running through Disney films with Goofy. And online games like these are competitions, where, depending on your skill level, you should be able to go toe-to-toe with anyone else (luchador or no).

      Keeping Vader and Luke et al. behind an effective paywall both undercuts the essential fantasy of the game (playing as your favorite characters in STAHWAHS) and undercuts the competitive nature of the game (Vader is going to be objectively better than the lizard bounty hunter guy you get for ‘free’…if he’s not, then there’s no point to Vader). It’s like you paid for a basketball fantasy camp, then they told you you needed to scrub the floor to earn a ball while the other team hires the Harlem Globetrotters to dunk on you incessantly…kind of. I dunno…this analogy is a work in progress.

      What I’m saying, though, is that I’m usually okay with microtransactions for player fashion and silly stuff, but it really seems like EA have purposefully gutted the things that make their games worth buying/owning/playing. And that’s sad, and I do get the outrage, even if it is over the top.

  5. TehK says:

    Thanks a lot for this very informative write-up.
    Although I of course read about the whole loot box controversy, I didn’t even know that they actually had put in more “currencies” than just the good old credits/crystals couple.

    This confirms my opinion that we (as customers) just shouldn’t support these kind of business practices (i.e. don’t buy it).

  6. Stargazer86 says:

    Remember, back in the day, when you paid $50-60 for a battlefield game and it came complete, with no unlocks, upgrades, or microtransactions? And the thing that kept people coming back was the fun gameplay? Good times, good times.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mungrul says:

      I fantasise about one of the old community server hosting companies firing up a bunch of old dedicated servers for great old games that can’t be taken down by corporate interests, and a new generation of players experiencing exactly what online play could be if it were free of commercial interests.

      Go on Clanbase, start up a new bunch of Jedi Academy servers, or Battlefield 1942, or any number of good old games that let the community run them.

      We fired up Jedi Academy briefly in the office the other day, and there was no bullshit unlocking of special characters; you could play as whoever you wanted from the get-go, and you could run the server on one of the computers where a player was playing. Force powers, light sabres, vertical gameplay, it was a joy.

      • Menthalion says:

        NuHere’s hoping Angels Fall First will get enough traction when it gets out of early access.

        It’s the Battlefront 3 gameplay that never was, but the developers are trying to keep a low profile until launch so they can actually get some player mass.

        And of course it lacks an iconic setting, and has to settle for something more generic.

      • Bull0 says:

        I mean, I’m with you but at the same time some of the most popular online games at the moment have flat progression (PUBG, CS, Dota, Overwatch, etc). It’s really a few big publishers self-sabotaging with loot boxes.

    • Jason Lefkowitz says:

      The original Battlefield 1942 was such a revelation. A giant sandbox littered with toys that anyone could pick up and use to pummel the other side. Planes and tanks and battleships, all just lying around for you to grab and have fun with. It was like the greatest video game toy chest you ever saw.

      I probably plowed more time into playing 1942 than I have into playing all the later Battlefield titles put together. It was great, casual fun. And each succeeding Battlefield game has seemed more ashamed of that feeling, and more determined to purge it out of itself forever, than the last.

      What a march of folly! What a waste!

    • ludde says:

      Remember when games were $40?

    • Herring says:

      The problem is, that’s no longer a valid business model. Look at Overwatch; pay once, get all current and future heroes, maps and gameplay modes. A fair and reasonable system but it sold barely any copies and didn’t make a profit at all.

      Who would duplicate that model?

  7. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I notice they also play the usual virtual currency scummy card and make it so that the amount of crystals you can buy with real cash is never actually equal to the cost in crystals of the things you can buy with them. Getting what you want almost always requires buying multiple different tiers of crystals, and it always insures that after spending them, you always have some left over, but not quite enough to actually buy anything, encouraging a spending loop.

    MMOs have been pulling this shit for years, and I honestly think it needs regulating.

    If these assholes had any scruples whatsoever, they’d price everything you can buy in game in real world currency, and let you spend just that amount.

    But even adding just one layer of abstraction to virtual currencies has been proven to be effective at inhibiting the consumer’s ability to gauge the actual real-world cost of what they’re “buying”.

    Bunch of supreme dickwads.

    • lanster27 says:

      This is so blood true for 99% of all games that offers microtrans or IAP. No matter how hard you calculate, you always have to pay a little extra to get to the amount you really want. It’s fucking stupid and I hate any companies that work like this.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Bioware were the worst at this, combining odd amounts of ‘bioware points’ with never ever reducing the price of DLC, even years after a game has come out and is regularly on sale for less than a fiver.

  8. ColonelFlanders says:

    “The nature of the loot crate system – that you don’t know what you’ll get and you might open several before getting something you want – makes this worse.”

    Otherwise known as GAMBLING. Let’s not dress this up – the system is gambling, and needs to be regulated. The fact that there are people sleeping at night after integrating gambling that they then aim directly at addictive personalities and children fucking sickens me. Gah it’s so gross.

    • Deadeye666 says:

      If it ever goes so far that the goverment looks into lootboxes I would assume the publishers main argument against it being actual gambling is that technically you can´t really lose when buying a lootbox. When you walk into a casino there is a very big chance that you will lose all the money you bet and walk away with nothing. That doesn´t happen with lootboxes. No matter what happens you will always get something in return for your money. It might not be the thing you want but you will never open an empty lootbox.

      For now anyway.

      • SWManiac says:

        The big difference is that there is no cash value for the digital goods you “gamble” for in games. You cant “cash-out” and sell your loot boxes back to EA at the end of the day like you can with chips in a casino.

        • Emeraude says:

          Another way to put it I guess: you’re gambling for *access* to data the publishers still owns, and to which some day you might not have access to anymore at their whim.

          Now, the video game industry forced to open the floodgate to ownership and taxation of virtual goods because of their gambling money-making scheme… that would be funny.

      • Horg says:

        Gambling isn’t defined as a risk with the potential to lose everything. If it were, then every betting institution could just guarantee a 1% return on every bet and skirt around gambling regulations. Loot boxes and other digital forms of gambling don’t follow the standard rules due to regulatory lag, so it’s omission rather then exclusion. If publishers keep pushing the monetisation in AAA titles, and public awareness of the problem increases (BF2 now has BBC coverage), then i’m confident that ”randomised shopping” in games will eventually be subject to gambling laws.

        • YummyBananas says:

          I don’t know exactly, though I guess it’s probably not about the potential to loose all, but the winning even more money which is considered real gambling. You can loose all your money through literally throwing it out of your window, and nobody would care (except of the people on the street).

          • Horg says:

            Loot crates should also tick that box. It should be possible to work out the average return form a crate in any game by looking at the code, and put a value on that based on the real money value of a crate. From there you can argue that as returns can be higher or lower than the average, the player is gambling for a good roll and better than average return on investment.

      • Menthalion says:

        How about slot machines that always payed out 5 units of currency, be they cents, dollars, $10, $100 or $1000 bills for a $1 buy-in ? Of course these would be weighted immensely to the lower end.

        This would be the same as loot boxes according to some, since I am always guaranteed to get 5 units of currency. I don’t think you’d get a lawmaker to agree on any such slot machines though.

        It’s all a question of value. And in this day and age even coin is just as valuable as the thought of value we assign to it. User data, advertising, digital content, even when re-hashed on twitch or youtube, all have value.

        So it’s neither here nor there if it’s ‘not gambling’ now. Gambling is what the law describes as is, and laws can and should be adjusted as times go by.

        There never were advertising laws until the impact of advertising reached critical mass. There used to be no laws on gambling, bribery, corruption, and no forms of trading standards. Hell, there used to be no code of laws at some time, period.

        But that doesn’t mean none should ever have been made. For one, it’s a prerequisite for Trade, Monarchy and The Republic..

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        I understand what you’re saying and you’re totally right about how they’re skirting the definitions right now, but for me it’s not about the strict definition of gambling. It’s about the approach, the intent of the horrible fucking slimebags that dream this shit up.

        They put these things in the game. They lock gameplay behind a random game of chance, then make the idea of actually playing the fucking game so unappealing that a weak-willed or addictive personality becomes manipulated into spending money. This is further worsened by the amount of kids that have such easy access to this. I mean christ almighty, how hard is it to convince a child to buy something fucking stupid just because it looks cool? If that weren’t the case companies like Razer wouldn’t exist. At least with a Razer you buy what you’re ACTUALLY getting though, rather than a box that COULD contain your keyboard, but could also contain a TV remote for a TV you don’t even own.

        • Deadeye666 says:

          Just to be cleas I wasn´t trying to defend lootboxes. I think they´re absolutely terrible.
          I guess the biggest hurdle in all of this will be the lawmakers themselves. Because the people who will actually decide whether all this stuff will be regulated are probably going to be in their 60s or 70s. Trying to explain to them what videogames, skins, lootboxes and microtransactions are and why they should be regulated is going to be rather difficult.

    • Carra says:

      It was in the Belgian news today. Our gambling committee is looking into Star Wars and Overwatch to see if the loot boxes can be considered gambling. If so it has to be regulated.

    • Eery Petrol says:

      We should attack Kinder Surprise next. And those ball dispensers that give you a random toy. Oh, and every product or supermarket purchase that comes with a random collectible ever.

      • Ich Will says:

        Just to be clear:-

        Did you realise your mistake just after the edit period expired, slap your forehead and yell DOH!!!

        Or do you still not understand the difference?

      • Coming Second says:

        Don’t seem to recall buying a ball dispenser in order to get a random toy. And actually yeah, those things were incredibly predatory towards kids, just not to the same degree as this.

  9. mortal_vombat says:

    Battlefront II has been my most anticipated game of this year and event though i was a little bummed out when i learned that it’s going to contain lootboxes, while playing i could see the love and the passion the developers poured in to it and my biggest problem with the game now is that i’ll have to wait like 3 weeks before i’m able to continue playing it. The Play First Trial has been the most fun my friends and I had in a game in months now and i genuinely can’t wait to get back to playing it :)

    I don’t really mind some of the heroes being locked, it’ll keep me playing the game longer, and i really enjoyed my time spent with the game during the beta and the Play First Trial. Getting killed by a guy with 3 epic cards also doesn’t seem to faze me that much either, i always play the objective so there’s always more people around fighting, it’s rarely just me vs. a guy who grinded or bought the cards adn i figure if they have guys with epic cards in their team we should have them as well if the matchmaking works right. I never buy lootboxes so i won’t directly feed in to that portion of the game but i will buy the game in December when (if) it goes on sale when The Last Jedi releases.

    i do respect other peoples right to boycott it however, if you don’t like something in the game you’re right to vote with your wallet

  10. Fitzmogwai says:

    My considered response? “Fuck that shit.”

  11. Freud says:

    While the outrage might seem excessive, if we don’t cause a big enough stink and it hurts sales this will be the new normal.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      This is just it. It’s happened before. People get pissed off, then people get outrage fatigue and just start accepting it because they’re tired of being mad about it

      They did it with DLC and people ignored it, believing the bullshit hype about mini expansions and post release content. They then started locking things that SHOULD have been in the game behind paywalls and we all went ‘fuck’.

      They did it with Microtransactions and people said “Well you don’t HAVE to buy them, they’re optional, not only that but they’re cheap little addons you can have to enjoy your experience more”. Then they released Dead Space 3, and we all went ‘fuck’.

      They did it with Lootboxes in TF2, then later Overwatch and the apologists said “IT’S JUST COSMETIC REE”. Then they started adding Pay to Win horseshit into games like this, Shadow of War and so on. And you know what’s coming next. When next year’s releases happen and we see how deeply infested they are with money-grabbing gatchas, we’ll all be going ‘FUCK’.

      • OmNomNom says:

        Yeah I’d normally disagree with this kind of statement… But it’s really true. Please don’t buy this game and support these practices

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      I hope I’m wrong, but this seems like another thing that will ultimately be co-opted by fascists looking for a fresh crop of newly radicalized white boys to fill their ranks.

      See also: the comments in this thread about oppression and revolution and lynching.

      • MrUnimport says:

        It is a sad, sad time when one can’t even criticize video games for fear of being confused with fascists, or use dramatic metaphors to illustrate a point. In all politeness, maybe a break from the internet would be healthy. Regain some perspective.

        • Guy Montag says:

          In all politeness, perhaps consider that, in a comment thread that is packed to the gills with slippery slope arguments, someone concerned with real life issues can have their say as well.

        • Guy Montag says:

          Meh, thought I’d expand on my comment, but that edit timer. Well, here we go:

          I’m in complete agreement that EA’s other others’ practices on display are shoddy and shouldn’t continue, but narratives in some places on Reddit and the like have caused this to go from a commentary on economic practices to an actual idea of revolution, as though the way someone sells a product is worthy of producing the same level of disaffection as issues that would actually have a measurable effect on your life outside of this hyperbubble that is modern gaming. Carrying that forward, disaffected youth are prime targets for fascist recruiters on the web. Can’t be too hard to see how A might connect to B at that point.

          Consider that there are viewpoints outside of your own, and that your voice actually has an impact on how they see the world, and like subdog you may choose to moderate yourself more responsibly. Or not, whatevs.

          Comparisons don’t need to be drawn between game publishers and deposed kings in order to make a point. Kings are absolute rulers of wide swathes of lands and peoples, with the capability to punish and reward them at will and unopposed, while game publishers… publish games. Srsly. (it also doesn’t help when said game publishers are actually receiving death threats for the fact that they… publish games, srsly)

          • Ich Will says:

            So, you are saying that people should take more care about the things they write, because people who read those things can be dramatically affected by the way it is written.

            But corporations should be free to pull whatever bullshite they want, because that definately doesn’t affect anyone ever.

          • Guy Montag says:

            You seem to have missed the part where I agreed that what they’re doing is wrong. But putting the argument in terms of people in power meant to be overthrown is sloppy and does little to actually effect things. As is evidenced by… every single instance of people attempting to protest EA up to now.

            Anger isn’t bad (though it generally clouds issues), but people can’t win this by shouting and then going back home, because all that does is violate noise ordinances for a while.

            Create strong arguments and campaign against EA as a group of people objecting to the methods of another group of people, not a gaggle of peasants attempting to topple ‘insert power structure here’. Your relation with EA is not as a serf to his lord, stop painting it as such.

          • Ich Will says:

            With all due respect, I didn’t miss anything – and I agree with the thrust of your point – I didn’t add anything to it because you seemed to cover it competently and adequately all by yourself, and I’m not in the habit of ego massage.

            What I didn’t miss, is what seems to be a strange, almost hypocritical attidude, where writing the wrong thing on the internet can have dramatic, real world affects for some people – and of course you reached for the death threats as the most extreme, despite the person you replied to not issing a death threat, that we know of. However, you also suggest that commercial practices can just be ignored if we don’t like them – I merely made the point in a sarcastic way, that nope, commercial practices can most definately cause harm and be abusive – just as much harm as an internet comment, at least.

          • Guy Montag says:

            Again, I didn’t say commercial practices can’t cause ill effects. That’s why I made the decision to preempt my entire edit with an agreement that their current practices should stop.

            My comment on death threats as the unfortunate counter-analogy to revolution was in reference to conversations elsewhere on the page, the same comment subdog referred to about the incredibly late monarch Louis XVI, not a jab at MrUnimport, who was quite reasonable with his comment, though I disagreed.

            I’m fine with being called a hypocrite, though I fail to see exactly where I was, but please don’t create narratives out of whole cloth like this.

          • Ich Will says:

            “Again, I didn’t say commercial practices can’t cause ill effects.”

            “as though the way someone sells a product is worthy of producing the same level of disaffection as issues that would actually have a measurable effect on your life”

            link to ias.org.uk

          • Guy Montag says:

            Granted. I could’ve defined that better, but hoped the word ‘disaffection’ would do that for me. That was again in reference to the idea I’ve been putting forward this whole time, that we are not in some way less that EA, and EA not more than us. There is no power struggle here that requires more than peaceful protest and peaceful words, and no glorious revolution to be had.

            Hope that cleared things up. Good day.

          • Ich Will says:

            Good day, I guess – It was the “as issues that would actually have a measurable effect on your life” that I was picking you up on, but as you clearly didn’t mean that as a mistake, and you obviously want to slime your way out of talking about it, (First you denied you said it, then you avoided it, to try by trying to distract with a different part of the statement, then bailing on the conversation – Trump tactics!) then Good Day!

          • Guy Montag says:

            I’m pretty sure you’re not a troll, so I’ll reply again, I guess, to say the same thing I already have, yaaaaay.

            disaffected – discontented and disloyal, as toward the government or toward authority

            This is what I was commenting on. Not the issue you’re talking about, the issue we agree upon. You seem to be (purposefully?) confusing this with my and subdog’s issues with the terminology employed in some conversations.

            Again, I agree that these are bad practices and shouldn’t continue. I don’t agree that we should frame these issues in terms of revolution (as in, referring to these companies in a way that paints them as oppressors, even though we are clearly not opressed), as that is somewhat irresponsible, and clouds the overall argument.

            If you would like to continue insulting me, though, I guess we could keep on clogging up the comments here. :)

          • Ich Will says:

            Sigh….

            .
            .

            If we agree that commercial practices can be damaging, all that was needed was for you to say “Oh, yeah, that bit where I made out like they weren’t – I didn’t mean that. They are.

            I have already pointed out that I agree with the thrust of your argument – the disaffected part of your comment. But do you see how when you write words “as issues that would actually have a measurable effect on your life” then you are saying that commercial practices don’t have measurable effect on lives.

            .

            .

            ..

            I don’t have the energy for this!
            Good day!

          • Guy Montag says:

            Don’t worry, I completely understand your argument, and agree with it as well, we were just making two different ones. Good day.

            EDIT: No prob. :)

          • Ich Will says:

            Internet misunderstandings! Gotta love em! Sorry for that!

        • Premium User Badge

          subdog says:

          If this was just “criticizing videogames” I’d be all for it. But look at the rhetoric on display in these comment sections. This isn’t criticism or colorful metaphor, this is blind rage that is feeding on itself and resulting in real threats against real people- the same kind of thing that happened with GamerGate, which was ultimately co-opted by the Alt-Right and turned into a recruitment platform for fascism.

          Again, I hope I’m wrong.

          Edit: I mean look down this thread- there’s a guy here saying that this practice is literally equivalent to war crimes. Not metaphorically. Perspective is needed all around.

          • Distec says:

            If your concern over ridiculous and inflammatory comments are sincere, you might want to first investigate the individual that somehow pivoted genuine frustration over fucked-up business models (and the corporations that obscure their true intent) into a hand-wringing rant about “white boys”, fascism, and the Alt-Right.

            In light of your comment, I can no longer believe that the wailing and gnashing on Reddit regarding this controversy is the most insane thing on the internet.

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            Are you disputing the fact that a certain previous movement of gamer outrage was co-opted into a recruitment platform for the alt-right?

            link to buzzfeed.com

    • ludde says:

      And then the cycle repeats. We’re a few major cycles in already.

      • ludde says:

        Let me expand on that: Games used to cost $40. They used to have server files for the community to run their own servers. They used to allow modding and some even had great support with development kits and level-editors were a common thing. They used to release big and free patches, sometimes for years, not so that people would buy more micro-transactions but for good-will and word of mouth. They also used to release expansions nearly as big as the main game but at half or two thirds the price.

        Obviously not every game did all of that, but generally games provided great value and were developed and released in such a way that it best served the players. Contrarily, nowadays it’s mostly about maintaining control and bleeding the customer for as much as you can. I think it’s easy to forget how much has been lost and get used to current circumstances – especially as generations shift.

  12. Throwback says:

    The controversy isn’t just about this game. This game is the spark to the gunpowder.

    I think RPS (or anyone commenting on this issue) should know that already.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Precisely. The reaction isn’t just to some mechanic in this one game, it’s to the whole concept which has been getting worse and worse. It’s like when PC games were getting increasingly ‘console-ised’ and people got more and more pissed off, and eventually a few games were getting really ripped by customers. And the result was that developers started valuing and catering to the PC market much better (no more console controls being shown during tutorials, fixed resolutions, etc).

      Another example is Games For Windows Live, and the increasingly aggressive reactions to that.

      Also, the article says this, which demonstrates a real missing of the point:

      “But there’s a principle element at work, isn’t there? We don’t like missing out, we like things to be complete, plus we are trained from oh-so-many games to believe that getting a new thing is necessary, that it will make all the difference.”

      The principle isn’t “we don’t like missing out”. The principle is that THIS IS A FULL PRICED GAME and yet it’s built like a free to play game with grinding/microtransactions as your two options for getting all of its content. If this game was actually free to play, no-one would care. But basically EA is saying “we think you, gamers, are sufficiently stupid that you will pay us for a game and then pay us again for the game”. And people are, understandably, very hostile to that point of view.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Alikari says:

    Yeah I think this has reinforced the decision I’d made to move this game from the ‘buy’ pile to the ‘never buy’ pile.

    Have to agree with others re: the controversy. It certainly seems over the top if you think its just about this one game, but its about all games before this that have seemed designed to nickle and dime people who have already paid full price for a game. People have hit breaking point on this one.

  14. Magus42 says:

    I don’t understand that constant impulse to compare EA’s microtransaction policy to the phenomenon of Star Wars merchandising. The existence of C-3P0 lunchboxes does not affect the ability of anyone to enjoy a Star Wars film. The existence of these microtransactions is clearly affecting the ability to enjoy this game. C-3P0 lunchboxes helped fund the sequels to Star Wars. I want EA to make a ton of money on the Star Wars license. That would mean more games for me to play. But that need to happen through a positive relationship with their consumers, not a predatory one.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    The one thing I would emphasize, that some of the commenters seem to be missing, is that the game front-loads credit rewards (a lot of one-time challenges) in a way that is normal for F2P games. The actual credits-just-for-playing drip is very, very slow, to the point where the time to buy a normal trooper crate is going to be one for every three hours of play – given how randomized they are, this can mean a really, really long time to get the one thing you want.

    And, of course, saving up for heroes is mutually exclusive; this is really weird, because it seems like if they were going to go the crazy-number-of-currencies route, they’d make it so you could simultaneously save up for heroes AND crates (get “hero points, I dunno) rather than having to choose.

  16. something says:

    I don’t care how it works, I don’t like it. I’m not going to study it. I’m not going to look at it objectively. I’m not going to consider the pros and cons.

    They’ve put a shop in my game and they’re trying to get me addicted to giving them money, not for a valuable product, but through psychological manipulation. As a matter of self respect, I’m not going to meekly submit to this.

    All these companies have crossed a line and I can no longer support them. How they treat me, how they treat others – it’s not acceptable and it’s not something I will be a part of.

    • DeFrank says:

      “I decline utterly to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.”
      ― Winston S. Churchill

      Comes to mind.

  17. left1000 says:

    If the game were free to play 0$ title people probably would’ve shrugged and said, well, it’s reasonable. Not so bad that I don’t have darth vader until I play for 40 hours.

    I just don’t comprehend how any company can think this stuff+60$ is fair. I’ll never buy a game that uses both business models. At very least in a situation like this the 60$ you give them should reward you with 60$ worth of crystals, but it doesn’t.

    • Liege says:

      Except of course, if they provided $60 credit, they would up the prices so you could only buy one or two things. Looking at you.. Mechwarrior Online.

    • Keepvogel says:

      This. While I’m usually a big fan of RPS articles, this one misses the mark rather drastically. The entire debate, however dilluted by now, was started by this one guy complaining he had to put down 80$ (he bought the deluxe edition) and still had to grind for hours. When it comes down to it, nobody gives a shit about how the their moneygrabbing machine works, we’ve seen that all before on mobile. This article seems to say: “It’s a bit of a convoluted currency system, but why are y’all so surprised?” It’s because people need to pay only to enter some godawful grinder / spending loop. The grind makes it a bad game, the option to pay to circumvent grinding makes it disastrous.

  18. Michael Fogg says:

    >>>some big-name heroes, including Rey

    LOL

    • jeremyalexander says:

      What’s funny about that? She’s better than anything in the prequels and Luke was a much bigger Mary Sue than she could ever be.

      • woodsey says:

        I mean, I don’t really agree with the Mary Sue criticisms of Rey, but Luke spends most of the trilogy failing to lift X-Wings out of swaps, getting disfigured, and getting electrocuted.

        • Det. Bullock says:

          In the SEQUEL, in the first one the guy goes from a T-16 (think a Cessna or a crop duster, barely seen in the movie by the way) to a fricking Incom T-65 X-wing Starfighter.

          • brgillespie says:

            It’s been a few years since I watched A New Hope, but I guess I missed the part where Luke figured out how to effectively fight with a lightsaber and the Force and soundly beat Darth Vader into submission. :)

            In Empire, Luke couldn’t even beat Vader after a crash course in the Force by Master Yoda and despite Vader fucking around with him half-heartedly.

  19. GeoX says:

    Notice that it’s just taken as a given that loot boxes aren’t going to improve a game; the only question we ask is “okay, so how much worse is this going to make the game?” It’s perverse. I try not to feel strongly about gaming-related controversies lately, because it’s gaming and it’s kind of dumb and basically doesn’t matter, but somehow, this shit is actually able to make me angry. I mean, not exploding-with-rage angry, but just kind of generally disgusted with the gross money-grubbing venality of it all. I’d no more buy a game with microtransactions than I’d pay somebody to put a big gross insect in my mouth.

  20. OmNomNom says:

    If it was a free game at least you’d get to try it to decide if you wanted to spend money on loot boxes or not. Both Smite and LoL i must have spent £150 each on but then i played them for years and got 1000+ hours from each so i feel i had my money’s worth.
    £60 to try a game and then to spend more to feel like i was competitive? No thanks.

  21. OmNomNom says:

    I also feel that microtransactions for _random_ gear should be banned in ALL games by the government as basically it’s gambling and that’s just a spiral into despair…

  22. ludde says:

    Full on freemium model for a €60 game? Sounds great.

  23. LennyLeonardo says:

    “Fun sold separately.”

  24. alert says:

    Pieces like this (there is a near identical one on PC Gamer) expose the pointlessness of Killscreen-style “political” commentary on games. If you can’t bring yourselves to have a clear opinion on something transparently designed to extract more money from players, at the cost of the game’s mechanics, and in a psychologically manipulative way, then what’s the point?

    I get that publishers pay for ads. They are your income stream. I’m not raging about conspiracy here or suggesting this was a paid PR piece. It doesn’t need to be. The point is that the response from professional commentators to these is always the same. It’s always carefully non-committal. It took a massive community backlash for there to be controversy over something as transparently ridiculous as horse armour (doesn’t that seem innocent now?). The editorial stance of major publications is never contrary to games publishers’ financial interests. A braver, more mature industry would have panned Battlefront and forced them into retreat.

    Games journalists rarely talk about unionisation, they rarely talk about how to cope with rising costs, or how to make games into a more sustainable industry. They rarely investigate how the industry actually operates or question the direction its taking in a fundamental way. This work is, instead, done by the ‘community’ (i.e random racists on 4chan).

    • FunkyB says:

      This is a very critical piece, but which doesn’t resort to YouTube-style hyperbole or repeating other people’s opinions as facts. Alec says what he experienced, and how he doesn’t like it. The actual review will come later, you know, once he feels qualified to properly do one.

      • GAmbrose says:

        Here Here.

        Most Youtube games “Journalism” is the ultimate clickbait. They aren’t beholden to advertisers because they get paid based on views. Therefore the more hyperbolic they are, the more views they get and the more cash they get.

        Give me a considered RPS article any day.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          It’s so ironic. Everyone’s always on about how written games journalism is either “clickbait” or somehow inaccurate to some preferred narrative but there is no medium more dominated by sensationalist trash than YouTube.

          (it’s not all trash, of course… there are good channels but also many extremely bad ones, especially some of the more popular ‘personalities’)

    • BooleanBob says:

      I’m afraid I’ve had to come to the same conclusions. I don’t believe for a second that games sites are actively colluding with publishers or engaging in corruption, but if the dependence on advertising revenue makes it impossible to take a firm stance against stuff this predatory without mealy-mouthed ‘but on the other hand’ ambivalence I honestly don’t know where we go from here.

      • Alec Meer says:

        I can promise you that my only motivation behind wanting to show this stuff in as clear a light as possible is wanting to show this stuff in as clear a light as possible. I don’t believe, personally, that desk-thumping achieves that effectively. However, my conclusions are pretty clear.

        And: since year one of this site, there have been people claiming that articles that don’t represent issues in the way that they themselves would represent them prove that we are biased/afraid/corrupt/toeing the line/etc. So it goes, everywhere, always.

        • BooleanBob says:

          Yeah. And I appreciate it. I think putting everything down in black and white really does give the customer more information about exactly what time or money gates await them on the other side of this £55 proposition.

          What people are picking up on though, is that the site hasn’t exactly shied away from desk-banging in the past. There has been editorial on all kinds of things, and much of it strident. They look at the creeping encroachment of this f2p garbage into the full priced market and wonder, ‘if now isn’t the time to push back against this, when will be?’

          • Alec Meer says:

            There is the site, and then there are the chosen voices of different writers on the site. Look at John’s NFS review, for instance. Does that suggest a site afraid of getting EA’s nose out of joint?

        • Laurentius says:

          But are really 100% sure that you know what is going on because you play a lot of games and writes about them critically for years? These mechanics are finely tuned, data driven things (and who knows mabe backed up not only by metrics but behavioral science as well), and while they are revenue for EA, it is quite possible to look at them differently. Wouldn’t be wise to look at these products from psychlogical or sociological standpoint? Or ask someone to look at them and incorporate such opinion? Isn’t that a good time for that now? Video games are part of a culture and are studied by humanities and while ocassionaly game writers will look for scholars work, they are very reluctant to do so when money are involved

          • Alec Meer says:

            I have *no idea* what our long-term coverage of this stuff is – we don’t plan ahead like that – but I have no doubt that we will be revisiting this issue in all sorts of different ways, because clearly it’s not going to go away, and clearly we’re uncomfortable with it too.

            What I have to object to is this sentiment that an article that is not titled or pitched as the psychology of lootboxes should be an article about the psychology of lootboxes. This article is to explain how SWBF2’s controversial unlock system operates in practice, then offer a few opinions on it.

          • Laurentius says:

            @Alec Meer
            I understand that but we are here and now and to tackle the whole situation head on seemed more appropriate, this take seems like a dodge. You also presents it as bit of rag-tag model straped to a game but as a commenter khamul observed here:
            “Yes. Note that the cheapest purchase tier gives you 500 crystals, and there’s no combination of loot crates that neatly fits into that. The closest you can get would be 4 x starfighter crates at 480 crystals.
            This is not a coincidence. Would there be any noticeable difference financially if they’d made starfighter crates 125 crystals? Or Hero ones 100 rather than 110? It was done deliberately not to fit neatly, so you’re tempted to buy more rather than let the left-overs go to waste.”

            it is rather not. So you sort of missed on how that bit of these lootboxe system operates, so you might have missed other bits. The main problem is that exactly what other gaming sites are doing, in Battlefront2 reviews or as RPS before WIT. These very narrow explanations. I can’t help to call them shallow. Game and controversy is here and now and no one is trying to confront it in a more ambitious way. Why?

          • Alec Meer says:

            Because I am not you, and I do not claim this one article to be the last and definitive word on the matter.

    • Apologised says:

      Nobody listens to 4chan. You mean Reddit. 4chan has been screaming about lootboxes and £60 games with Fremium practices for 4+ years now with nobody caring. But as soon as precious Reddit downvotes the BF2 page by 2000 in an hour it becomes front page news on the BBC website.

      I mean, to be fair, 4chan screams about everything. 4chan couldn’t find consensus in what color an Orange is. But, if you ever find a post in 4chan that’s over 100 words and isn’t a copy+paste about how the poster used to be an Navy SEAL there’s usually some thought or at least cursory research present.

      Or it’s a tale about how one guy did a totally cool thing in his D&D campaign one day that definitely happened.

      • aircool says:

        The problem with 4chan is that anyone who’s not wholly familiar with 4chan just seems to think it’s a board dedicated to white supremacy and sexism*.

        Ok, there’s a lot of humour (dark or otherwise) and the 1D4chan site is hilarious.

  25. Laurentius says:

    This is one of the worst piece I’ve read on RPS. This is so superficial it almost hurts. I mean sure if you don’t have a knowledge yourself, for a journalists it shouldn’t be hard to find some expert of psychology of gambling and addictions and show this game layout ask what to make out of it. It’s like visiting a casino and informing you didn’t like how it works because it obfuscutates chances of watching shows and meeting interesting people and calling slot machines a revenue stream for a company runing casino. Sure, it is, but it is extremally superficial to present it only from that angle.
    Are loot crates in BattlefrontII gambling? I don’t know, it is EA product so I expect that they jumped every hoop to not fall for this paragraph or that. Nevertheless in this day, legislation is usually way behind digital landscape we live in.
    Also saying like it is widespread system but just more potent is misunderstanding, sure I don’t play many mobile games and f2p but the system you laid you? I never experienced anything like it in my 30 years of playing video games.
    I really can’t understand why you stoped at that really shallow extreamlly subjective point of view. Once again it’s like visiitng a casino and informing that you didn’t like it and it is a bit shady, but to regulate that stuff, study it or think about it too much is a waste of time.
    Personally I have no doubt that these mechanics will be looked at, that there will be psychological studies how it affects people etc.
    Alec, you didn’t even bother to let some other voice to it, let alone maybe some outside expert voice. You just let it be “here I know what it is, let me explain it to you”. Very superficial and disappointing.

  26. sagredo1632 says:

    I’d like to point out this is one area where I think Chinese regulators are ahead of the curve in that they have *required* companies to disclose payout odds for digital loot boxes and the like. This is a definite requirement for the various state-run lotteries in the US, but legislation has yet to grapple with gambling through digital platforms, as evidenced by the incoherent policy towards fantasy football leagues. One thing I should note is that if this game is rated for minors, then even having loot crate mechanics in it is probably a violation of gambling law both in the US and the UK, if not in letter, at least in spirit.

  27. aircool says:

    The game still has a long way to go before it reaches the convoluted level of MMO currency where you often have to pay cash to unlock inventory space, then use several in game currencies to make a bag that goes into that new slot.

    I’m not bothered about unlocking heroes. I never really enjoyed playing them as there was the tacit pressure of having to perform well. As for weapons and equipment, I do like to have something I can look forward to unlocking; same for vanity items.

    At least it’s not FIFA FUT where the pressure to spend cash on card packs is incredibly high, only for them to become useless 12 months later when a new FIFA drops.

    At the end of the day, it will still come down to who has the best aim and the best players on their team.

    I’m one of those people who believe that crates that give random items for cash is gambling, so they either shouldn’t be in games, or should give you the odds of getting an item.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    So if players “earn” currency in-game that can be spent the same way as currency they buy with real cash, EA are obviously placing value on players’ time whilst not allowing them the means to withdraw that value from the game.
    What I’m saying is, if someone “earns” a currency in game that can be proven to possess equal value to real-world currency, EA must be compelled to allow players to exchange the virtual currency for real currency.

    They want to play silly buggers with pretend currencies in order to exploit their customers, they should be treated as if the currencies they’re inventing are real, and forced to face all the consequences associated with running a real-world currency. Exchange rates, minimum wage laws, taxation, all that jazz.

    These assholes have been getting away with this for too long.

  29. ThTa says:

    I was already put off by the (not financially motivated) Skinner Box progression systems of games like Call of Duty 4 and beyond. I don’t like being limited in my options, I don’t like being at a disadvantage because I don’t play the game the way the developers want me to so I can earn “Congrats on Playing the Game Points” and spend them on more of the game I already paid for.

    Even ignoring how egregious the amount of such points and real money required to have all the toys is… Just the existence of such mechanics would have chased me off right away. They all point to a game that’s simply not good, or rather, utter tripe.

    But apparently people have gotten so desensitized to these terrible mechanics that it only somewhat mars their experience. It’s not that they exist at all, it’s that they’re a bit too detrimental to having fun this time around. This article seems to express a general tone of “Well, it is what it is, it’s still a good game if you ignore those mechanics!” Except no, those mechanics are part of the game, and that makes it a bad game, end of story.

  30. B0GiE-uk- says:

    Battlefront 1 DLC = £17.99
    Battlefront 2 Loot Crates = $2100.00

    Discuss….

    • GAmbrose says:

      Ok I will.

      Battlefront DLC massively split the playerbase.

      Battlefront II – I won’t spend a single penny on and lootboxes, and now I get all the DLC and new maps for free to play with my buddies, who also won’t spend a single penny on lootboxes.

      If idiot ‘whales’ and kids want to spend their/their parents money to try and get a small advantage then more fool them

      I don’t think the $2100 figure is even remotely accurate (who wants/needs to unlock ‘everything’ in a game like this anyway?)

      • Ich Will says:

        I really find it difficult to respect anyone whose attitude is “This thing may hurt other people, but it helps me, and I’m not them, so I’m going to fight for it.”

        • GAmbrose says:

          Sorry, who is the game “hurting” again?

          • dahools says:

            Young, vunerable people and addicts. You and your friends are not the whole world.

          • Ich Will says:

            Gambling addicts and those who become gambling addicts (Feel free to insert the correct term if you prefer a different, more marine life based one to gambling)

            Those people the likes of you refer to as sealife, “Whales”, “minnows” etc – you know what they get refered to as, if you move outside of your entitled little bubble? The vulnerable, the mentally ill. People that you should feel like shit for benefiting from their exploitation, all so you can have more servers to play on. (which is exactly why they have been labelled in such terms)

            Completely sidestepping the point, that yes, it was rubbish that the playerbase was split by expansions – but it didn’t have to be. There are plenty of example from the time, where games managed multiplayer communities without splitting the playerbase. No, it wasn’t by aggressively targeting the more vulnerable of their playerbase to squeeze more money from them either… The only reason the player base was split was because the games that did that were moneygrubbing. A-fucking-gain.

            Stop defending and excusing and white knighting for these corporations, while bemoaning the consequences of their preditory business models.

          • GAmbrose says:

            Well I hope you boycott pubs that have fruit machines and march outside the bookies in towns up and down the land that really are having an effect on the poor and vulnerable.

            My nephew pretty much spends all his £10 a week pocket money on FIFA, I explained to his mother about the loot box issue and think there should be Government intervention.

            But the whole furore focused on Battlefront II is ridiculous. EA have been doing it for years with FIFA and I don’t see gamers up in arms about it.

          • Ich Will says:

            Well, I don’t use pubs, so out of my realm of experience, and I’m a wheelchair user, so I’m not “marching” anywhere – but I do talk about fruit machines and gambling shops in the same way that I talk about lootboxes on the internet – I mean, you didn’t think I was placarding EA right now, did you?

            (Though, it strikes me you chose two things heavily regulated and tried to equate them to a thing that is not regulated – because if I were to protest fruit machines or gambling shops, it wouldn’t be to ban them, but to have transparant regulation – almost invisible to a non-vulnerable user, but prevents a vulnerable user from dealing too much damage to society – exactly like we have now with gambling, and drinking)

  31. Ny24 says:

    It’s not gambling. Because gambling requires the chance to win money. We shouldn’t compare it, there is really a big, big psychological difference.

    On the other hand I feel like these systems are really hurting not only the fun and learning systems in games but the games industry as a whole. I cry a little at night.

    • FunkyB says:

      Whilst I still don’t know whether it is gambling or not, I opened a crate in TF2 (at the cost of a £4 key) and got a rare hat. Last year I sold that hat on the marketplace for around £40, which paid for Divinity Original Sin 2.

      • dahools says:

        Good for you. But if you were smart you would have unlocked 10 more crates with that £40 and got £400 worth of rare hats to sell and so on to buy all of the games on Steam. . .
        But we all know that’s not how it works is it.

    • Ich Will says:

      Don’t try to define gambling in such simple basic terms – if that were true, casinos which operate on chips wouldn’t be gambling. Except they are.

    • Wolfram86 says:

      So, scratch to win tickets for $1 million is gambling, but scratch to win a Lamborghini is not. Got it…

  32. Evan_ says:

    That won’t be a so bad system… once the game goes F2P. :)

  33. Lobotomist says:

    This is in a nutshell F2P system that is now simply introduced into full-priced 60$ game.

    We used to tolerate this F2P unlocks because the game itself was free.

    Make no mistake about it, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING

    What was until now trade-off because we got the game for free, will now come in every full priced game.

    And dont get swayed for a moment with claims “Its just progression system”. No, it is not. In a moment you allow progression to be bought by money – this is nothing more than standard F2P gambling scheme.

    This is by far one of biggest atrocities in gaming we seen in a long time. Something that was unthinkable until now.

    EA is using this title to test the waters. If we let it pass, this will enable others to do the same, and the gaming will change

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Yo, however much of a shitty exploitative system this is, “atrocity” is not an appropriate word to describe getting ripped off in a videogame. Such words are used to describe heinous war-crimes, not unreasonable business practices. Learn some sense of proportion, man.

      • Menthalion says:

        There is no difference. Corporate exploitation currently is a bigger threat to people worldwide than enemy nations ever where.

        It’s just a death by a thousand cuts instead of one fell strike.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Fuck off. If you think *literal war crimes* and shitty micro-transactions are in any way equivalent or even in the same universe of categories of badness you are out of your goddamn mind.

          • Menthalion says:

            If you delved a bit deeper into your brain than the obscenities bin you might find the connections between corporate behaviour, politics, wealth distribution and war crimes.

            Have a good time looking, and if you decide not to, at least have the decency not to berate others that do.

          • Guy Montag says:

            Wait, is this just an ‘atrocity in gaming’, or is EA’s standing army breaking the Geneva Conventions? Hold up, did EA even sign into the Geneva Conventions? Holy shit, what websites do I need to frequent to stay up to date on this, because I don’t think Kotaku has a section on global thermonuclear war.

  34. GAmbrose says:

    This is the best and most accurate reporting I’ve seen about the loot box controversy, and I think Alice was getting unfairly pilloried in the previous article because of internet outrage.

    I’ve played 3 campaign levels and had approx 7-8 multiplayer matches (courtesy of a free 30 day EA Access code) and also earn’t more than enough credits to buy Vader, with more to spare on other things as well.

    My 10 hour free trial says I still have 6 hours left so it’s not like I’ve invested a ton of time in the game yet either.

    The whole “You need to spend $2100 to unlock everything” is patently false, and people really should consider what Youtubers are getting out of fanning the flames of controversy

    A) They get views. Views = income
    B) They often buy the bloody crates and live stream the opening, as they tell you how horrific microtransactions are. They put these through as work expenses and make even more income from outraged people, viewing their vids.

    Many of them are massive hypocrites, frankly.

    And just to clarify – I have never, nor will I ever pay money for a loot box or microtransaction. I have ordered Battlefront II based on my experience playing the Beta and early access though (on Xbox One X)

    • Lobotomist says:

      It is not really about if you will buy boxes or not.

      It is clearly about the fact that monetisation that was restricted to F2P games ( because you get the game for free ) is now put into full priced 60$ game.

      By buying this game, you are setting precedent and message that customers are now ready to have F2P monetisation in full priced games. And it will change everything from now on.

      • GAmbrose says:

        You’re implying that it being the most downvoted comment on Reddit is going to have a big impact on sales figures and people like me are going to make it more acceptable for EA to carry on.

        But EA have already been doing this for years with FIFA. My 11 year old Nephew spends loads of his pocket money on FIFA points. This tide isn’t going to turn because the 2% of players who spend the money on microtransactions are making them a fortune, so to EA it’s worth a bit of internet controversy.

        Ubisoft – record profits from Microtransactions
        Take Two – Making huge profits from GTA V which is 5 years old

        And anyway, casual gamers are the ones who will make or break the game. The previous game sold 16 million copies Worldwide. Most of them probably haven’t even heard of Reddit.

    • mukuste says:

      Everything I’ve seen implies that credit gains are heavily frontloaded. They hand that stuff out like candy in the first few hours with one-off rewards to pull you in and make you think, “hey, this isn’t so bad.” Once you’re past that? You either pay up or get ready to grind.

      • dahools says:

        Exactly that. “Here have some bonus extra you haven’t played in a while.”
        Or achievement markers that get further and further apart. Daily rewards that mean if you don’t play in a while you can feel left behind because of where other people are at with no way of catching up except paying the £££.

  35. Wolfram86 says:

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but after I buy a video game the thing that will get me to spend more on it is large expansion packs. I’ll buck up another 50% of the purchase price if they are going to offer me twice as many maps and a few new vehicles/heros/etc.

    I will absolutely not pony up to unlock anything achievable for free in a game, and if they game the system to make that achievement nigh impossible, then fuck them, I’m not supporting it. I don’t mind shortcuts being available, if the system is fair, because experience should trump gear (hello Demon/Dark Souls).

    As a mature gamer (ie: 31 yr old), I find the vast majority of my games get played up to about 20 hours, and only the really really good ones hit 40+. If they want to REQUIRE 40 hours of repetitive gameplay just to unlock one or two characters, well, that’s insane. I expect to be nearly max level after 40 hours of most games, or at least vastly improved from when I started. In BFII you could save every credit for a hero and still be newbie-tier (no star cards) at 40 hours!

    It’s unfortunate that a lot of people are really not money-savy and can fall victim to predatory spending tactics like this.