Jstar’s Chronicles #45 – Loot Crates Aren’t Great
It’s time to bring up the elephant in the room about what EA’s been doing recently with loot crates and micro-transactions, as well as the rest of the gaming industry.
MY TAKE: STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II LOOT CRATES (AND MY FEELINGS TOWARDS LOOT BOXES)
Now, please note that I might be a little inaccurate on some of the things that I bring up. I am personally a little salty about what’s been happening with this game, as a fan of the original Battlefront II, and I didn’t entirely hate the new first Battlefront by EA. I, for a while, planned to get this as well, but not as a pre-order as I barely ever do those anyway. Seeing this happen barely before the game releases is rather unfortunate and I’ll simply have to look for another great game to buy instead. Maybe… Persona 5 by ATLUS? 😉
Today, EA released the anticipated sequel to 2014’s Star Wars Battlefront, aptly named above. With improved graphics, more content to work with, and what should have a better launch, this should clearly be better than the last one, right?
Take note that I bought the new Star Wars Battlefront almost a year ago, and I also own the old Battlefront II on PC (and previously, the PS2 version as well). I wasn’t super into the new one (and was also saddened to see improvements on PS4 Pro never exist), and it’s quite interesting to see the amount of support still being given to the original’s sequel. This includes official support from Disney themselves, who recently brought back official online multiplayer with up to 64 players! With its good player base still going strong, the popularity still showcases the support that the Star Wars brand has to this day.
However, the newly-released sequel, until recently, would showcase a new way of gaining progression faster; by paying real money and converting it into a game currency. Yes, this is essentially similar to what you’d normally find in those free-to-play mobile games, or just free-to-play games in general, where paying real money turns you into a better player. lootboxes in general are considered gambling to me, as you’re putting money into something that you don’t know what you’ll get out of it. It’s not a fun thing to think about, and only a few games I can think of currently do loot boxes well. One of them is Blizzard’s Overwatch.
In Overwatch, lootboxes were a thing since day one, but in a way where the biggest problem with them wasn’t effective. With Overwatch lootboxes, you could only get cosmetics with your character, which are essentially different skins, emotes, and sprays that don’t actually affect gameplay while battling both offline and online. The best part of this is that you can even just get lootboxes through just playing normal matches with technically no limits (each rank up gets you a lootbox). While I may have a bias towards Overwatch, their implementation of lootboxes have been done well enough to not get slammed by critics for being added in.
How Battlefront II did it, however, was not really consumer-friendly. The loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront II focused on you gaining new characters, with different and possibly better abilities than the ones you get out of the box. Having different characters being available through loot crates are almost immediately a bad idea as a person should be able to get access to all the characters through normal progression and without paying any money if possible. So, maybe you could just play through the game like normal, then? Nope.
There seems to be a limit, even in its current form, on getting credits towards acquiring new characters. You can play a few offline matches, but you eventually hit a limit on how many credits you get for the day, essentially meaning that you have to literally wait days if not weeks for the character you want to be in sight if you want to get that character without having to grind online with people who probably paid for the characters you’re trying to reach for, giving you an extreme disadvantage depending on the character. EA tried to resolve the ridiculous amount of needed credits towards unlocking characters by making them cheaper, at the cost of making credits received in the single-player game much lower.
The loot crates even have these things called “Star Cards” that effectively improve the characters you may or may not have. That’s right, unlocking the loot crates in the game can boost characters you haven’t gotten yet, including characters locked behind a large credit wall.
2017 seems to have become the year of lootboxes, loot crates, and micro-transactions in general. Shadow of War has it, Call of Duty: World War II has it (one report suggested you have to watch people open their lootboxes in front you, which is ridiculous), Forza Motorsport 7 has it, and with these being AAA titles, having them added in and being part of progressing faster makes you feel like you’re playing a free-to-play mobile game with better graphics and it costed you $60 to buy up-front. We’ve truly entered an age of AAA games being “Pay to Win”, and that’s simply not a good thing.
These kinds of games are out-right… disturbing to see being created and it’s not a good sign for the gaming industry. While we have companies like Nintendo have no micro-transactions, no lootboxes, and essentially a focus on just being fun, many more companies are going out of their way to make sure that they get as much money out of their consumers as possible. I don’t have a definitive reason why this is happening, but one reason may be that games are getting more expensive to produce, but this is still against consumers and the extra costs of making high-budget video games should be managed through other ways. It’s very worrying that we’re heading into a world where if this is the reason micro-transactions and lootboxes are coming in strong, this could only get worse.
I’d rather not support the companies that do these strategies, hence why I barely play mobile games in general (Thank you, Nintendo Switch), but when they’re being added into anticipated, AAA blockbuster games made by massive companies, it becomes clear that this is a sign that we’re heading into a path companies will love but consumers will not like. Not one bit.
I’m going to at least be a little optimistic that with EA turning off in-game purchases temporarily may have them re-focus them into being used towards just cosmetics, but I sadly also expect them to just turn them back on when the heat dials back down. One thing’s for sure: With ‘Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’ releasing so soon, there’s a pretty good chance that Disney and the little mouse himself jumped in with changing what EA was originally doing.
Let me know if you feel the same, similar, or completely different about this in the comments below! If I made any mistakes, please let me know and I’ll fix them as soon as I can.
THIS WEEK IN GAMING
I’m trying to exclude lootbox news discussions here this time around due to my discussion seen above.
- SOMA is to release on Xbox One on Dec 1st. Includes new Safe Mode, which is an update for PC on the same date, with PS4 to follow
- THQ Nordic acquires Biomutant developer Experiment 101
- Vivendi: No plans for Ubisoft takeover for six months
- The Nintendo Switch is the best-selling console in the USA in October.
- Disney Shuts Down Marvel Heroes
- Bluehole developing new IP for PS4, Switch
- Super Bomberman R version 2.0 update now available, adds “Grand Prix” Battle Mode
- GameStop ‘Temporarily Pauses’ Unlimited Used Games Program
Thanks for reading this 1,300+ word editorial that I actually released on time! I wanted to be absolutely certain to release this on time due to not having one release at all last week. I was simply busy with improving with life and education, and I always want to keep my priorities straight. With Thanksgiving next week, I’m optimistic to have the next issue release on time next week as well, so I’ll hopefully see you there. Until then, thanks for reading!