What began as a seemingly innocent post by an EA community manager on Reddit this weekend has turned into an internet-wide revolt against the company. EA has caught lots of flak in the past for decisions that gamers ended up not liking, some of it unfairly attributed. However, players seem to be incensed by the decisions EA has taken when it comes to the in-game economies of their two biggest launches this year, Need for Speed Payback and Star Wars Battlefront 2. Both games have setups that take advantage of the lack of a player’s time to incentivise purchasing loot boxes to speed up their in-game progress.
The revolt began when Star Wars Battlefront 2 owners started picking apart the requirements to play as heroes in multiplayer matches, as well as the time taken to earn special weapons and abilities. According to user TheHotterPotato on the Battlefront 2 subreddit, players will need to grind out 40 hours of continuous multiplayer matches to earn enough credits to buy Darth Vader, and have the ability to play as Vader in multiplayer matches. Without spending the in-game credits on any other items, 40 hours is what it could take the average player.
In response, several threads popped up with players talking about the progression system, and how long it would take anyone, even with someone who pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition of the game, to purchase crates or characters. There’s nothing in the Deluxe Edition that would aid players in the grind, and once the in-game mission challenges are complete, players will only have multiplayer matches as their primary source of income to buy characters or crates. In one of the threads, a player who had pre-ordered lamented that it would take so long to play as Vader, and noted that he would be asking for a refund.
An EA community manager stepped into the thread to offer their response to the thread which had landed on the front page of Reddit and had attracted over two thousand comments. The post read as follows:
The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.
As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we’re looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay.
We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets.
Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.
As of this writing, that comment has generated 160,000 negative votes and continues to gain another thousand every hour. None of the replies to the comment are positive and just about every single one criticises EA for the idea that gamers should have their progress in Battlefront 2 halted for the sake of providing a progression path. Not only is there a clear throttle on player progression in the game currently, there are also ways to pay for upgrades in the form of skill cards that give players a combat advantage on the battlefield, as Kotaku discovered.
Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra additionally notes that loot crates are predatory in design. “They strictly manage probabilities and reward schedules in order to trick players into buying ‘just one more.’ Animators and sound designers work meticulously to make the process of opening loot crates pleasurable and exciting. Loot crates are made to dazzle, delight, and encourage repeat purchases.”
My tweets earlier had nothing to do with community remarks or topics within or around SWBFII. I made a tweet about a general thing and people claim I am speaking about my games community complaints. #disheartning #Frustrated Sorry to those who think it was about Star Wars.
— Mat Everett (@sledgehammer70) November 12, 2017
When you take that into account with the response provided by the EA community team, it’s understandable why so many people were incensed. Here EA was admitting openly that they were working out how long it would take players to earn certain rewards, and that they were adjusting the in-game economy to suit both crate sales and the number of rewards earned by players. Add in to the fact that the community manager behind the post, Mat Everett, allegedly taunted the community on his personal Twitter account, and you have all the right ingredients for an internet revolt. Everett has since removed his tag identifying him as an EA community manager, and deleted some Tweets.
Further fuel to the fire was an admission by DICE design director Dennis Brännvall that the game doesn’t even have premium content lined up for players to look forward to.
Working on a game with a live economy and without a premium content lineup is a new challenge for us at DICE. We had one progression system in the closed alpha and heard your feedback back then. We made another iteration for the open beta and heard your feedback then too. For launch, we’re having another iteration and there will definitely be more iterations as we evolve this game post launch.
Brännvall’s comment is stickied to the top of the Battlefront 2 subreddit. If DICE doesn’t have any additional DLC on the cards during the launch window, there won’t be anything for players not interested in heroes to look forward to. Just more grinding. Future DLC characters will also cost more than the ones available in the base game on launch.
That’s not the end of it, though. The carnage followed the Need for Speed subreddit, where players had learned about similar game mechanics in EA’s latest addition to the franchise. In Payback, you can purchase loot boxes to earn items in-game like car mods, but not only is it possible to receive duplicate items, there’s an additional currency in the form of Speedcards, which you can equip to your car to give you added bonuses, just like skill cards in Battlefront 2.
Some of the threads appear to have been deleted in between when I learned about the controversy and when I sat down to write it, but threads like this one decrying Speedcards, or this one detailing the game’s issues are all that’s left. Reviews for Payback call out the microtransactions and slow game economy quite consistently, along with the hands-off system of modifications. Other EA subreddits appear to not have any issues with the fallout, but it’s likely to continue to spread despite anything EA says in the next week. Metacritic’s review rankings score the game below 70% across all three platforms.
EA has yet to comment on the controversy. I sure hope I won’t be repeating a story like this for Respawn’s new game in the future.