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PCGamesInsider.biz Games of 2017: Star Wars Battlefront 2 - The One That Triggered a Backlash to Aggressive Monetisation

PCGamesInsider.biz Games of 2017: Star Wars Battlefront 2 - The One That Triggered a Backlash to Aggressive Monetisation

What? Star Wars Battlefront 2 on a Game of the Year list? Really? Are you high?

To answer your questions one by one: firstly – this is a list of the games that *defined* 2017, not the *best* games. And secondly – maybe, that's none of your business.

To say that EA messed up with its implementation of loot crates and progression blocking is a colossal understatement. The publishing giant massively underestimated how much of a consumer backlash there would be this and how far-reaching consequences it would have.

So, the story so far. The Star Wars Battlefront II beta was rolled out in October, with gamers noticing some rather aggressive progression blocking.

EA said that changes were being made prior to the game's release. But when it launched consumers could finally see just how bad it was. Characters such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker would take 48 hours to unlock with in-game grinding; gameplay-affecting items were locked behind a monetisation system that basically forced gamers to pay real-life money to on level pegging with other gamers.

EA's justification for its reasoning behind this system – that the developers wanted gamers to have a sense of pride and ownership over their character – fast became Reddit's most down-voted comment ever. This is par for the course, if we're honest. People like to kick EA because EA has previous for being a – gasp – company that wants to make money. The publisher dropped microtransactions from the game and is working out a better way to implement monetisation. 

But what would normally be a 'gamer outrage controversy' actually went much further than any of us predicted. Soon this wasn't just a story for the games media – national and international publications were covering the mess. The gambling commissions from the UK, Belgium and The Netherlands have been looking into whether loot crates constitute gambling, with politicians from France, the UK and Hawaii being made away of the story.

At the time of writing, the jury is still out as to whether loot crates do constitute gambling, or whether this will be a story that goes any further. Triple-A firms such as EA, Blizzard and Take-Two have rushed to defend loot crates, saying they were not gambling. That's to be expected, given that these companies obviously profit from their implementation in the likes of Battlefront II, Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto Online. Meanwhile, accounts of the damaging effects of gambling addiction that stems from in-game purchases have come out highlighting just how easy it is to fall into this behaviour.

But EA will have to listen - Disney and LucasFilm have been involved and the publisher's share price has sunk 8.5 per cent since, representing $3bn in value. 

It remains to be seen whether loot crates and in-game purchases will be regulated moving on, or how they will be implemented in games moving forwards, but one thing is for sure – the Battlefront II mess has made it so that no games publisher is going to try monetisation so aggressive again for a while.

This also shows how desperate things have become at the top. Game budgets have inflated by ten times in the last decade, while video game prices have actually done down, taking into account inflation. So the biggest triple-A publishers are having to seek other ways to make back the game's budget, both for development and marketing.

We saw this years ago with DLC and microtransactions in games, but with aggressive implementation of schemes like loot boxes... it's starting to look like things are getting pretty fraught.

You can't blame EA, or other triple-A firms like Take-Two, Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft, for wanting to make money as these are publicly owned companies answerable to shareholders who have entrusted them with their money in the hope of making more money. But the triple-A companies are running something of a gambit with these aggressive tacts.

If nothing else, we might see new, and potentially less aggressive, ways of making money back in video games. But - to quote one fantastic game that sadly will not be making this list - This Cannot Continue.


Editor - PC Games Insider

Alex Calvin launched PCGamesInsider.biz in August 2017 and has been its editor since. Prior to this, he was deputy editor at UK based games trade paper MCV and content editor for marketing and events for London Games Festival 2017. His work has also appeared in Eurogamer, The Observer, Kotaku UK, Esquire UK and Develop.

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