The Loot box fiasco that is Star Wars: Battlefront II strikes again.
If you missed it, Electronic Arts, the Comcast of the video game industry, is publishing a glorified gambling simulator, with pay-to-win "loot boxes" as an AAA game based on the beloved Star Wars franchise.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
But it gets worse.
After it became apparent that the model for Star Wars: Battlefront II was to have gamers who already spent $60 on it spend more to unlock their favorite characters, giving favorable upgrades to those who continued to spend money on the game, Electronic Sharts then tried to make this better by dropping the "cost" of the heroes by 75%.
This didn't help matters.
Then, news dropped that it would take the average player approximately 40 full hours of gameplay to unlock a SINGLE character unless they paid real dollars for it.
To make matters EVEN WORSE, when a player complained about this on Reddit, the official Evilcorp Arts Reddit account responded in an official capacity by saying:
Again, this tone-deaf corporate response made people understandably upset. The comment is currently sitting at -677,000 points, which makes it the single most downvoted comment in Reddit's history.
To make matters even worse (somehow), when players began canceling their pre-orders en-masse, Erectronic Parts decided the best course of action would be to remove that option from their website, for all games, completely. Meaning the only way to get a refund would be to call their crummy customer support chat feature.
A mere DAY after this completely unacceptable level of tone-deafness, the idiots who run the Elecolonic Arts marketing team apparently thought it was high time for the developers of the game to participate in a Reddit AMA, answering questions from fans. Golly gee! There's nothing bad that can happen with that!
But sure enough, Elechronic Farts shat the bed. Each comment by each dev was so poorly received users had to HUNT to find their responses since they'd been downvoted to oblivion.
And this is to say nothing of their propensity to gobble up beloved studios, corrupt them, and then close them.
So once again, Phallictronic Tarts is inarguably one of the most toxic brands outside of the White House.
Marketers take note: this is how you destroy your brand.
But it's important to remember that it goes beyond Paulblartic Blarts (which has been, more than once, voted the "Worst Company in America," beating out other objectively shitty companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bank of America).
Other companies are at fault, too.
It's Activision/Blizzard -- remember that Overwatch popularized Lootboxes last year with minimal backlash. This was partly due to the fact that the game was fun as hell without them, and partly because Blizzard (not Activision) is still considered a pretty alright brand. Remember, too, that Hearthstone is currently being ruined by this same practice.
It's Take-Two Interactive, whose CEO, Strauss Zelnick is quoted as saying "we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company." Meaning we'll be seeing more microtransactions in future 2K games, 2K sports titles, and in Rockstar games (yes, that means future GTA titles will be affected by these practices, as well as the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2).
Hell, even Valve has been doing this for years with Team Fortress 2, Dota, and through randomized card drops on Steam.
Almost every single mobile game follows this same shitty model.
It's a systematic virus within the video game industry. It's spreading, and it needs to be stopped.
The Belgian gambling commission is currently investigating Star Wars: Battlefront II, Overwatch, and others to determine whether or not this bullpucky is considered gambling. And the CEO of Electonic Squirts released a statement on the matter:
Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game.
Here's the thing. These randomized loot boxes contain items that could have drastic changes to gameplay. Gamers are paying real money on these random drops. With any luck, the BGA will find these games in violation of their rules, which...
Well, it won't do much. The worst that would happen is they'd have to obtain a permit to distribute the games within Belgium.
But perhaps it could catch on. Perhaps we'll see more gambling commissions around the world investigate these claims. Perhaps this could incite real change within the industry.
Or perhaps major publishers will continue pushing this kind of crap and turn the gaming industry into glorified slot machines.
For more on this, see Mr. Sledge's Neighborhood #25.