Star Wars Battlefront II no longer allows you to spend real-money on in-game loot boxes, following a dramatic move by EA and DICE in the hours before the game’s full launch.
As of this moment, there is no longer any way to purchase crystals, the real-money-equivalent in-game currency that can be spent on the game’s controversial loot boxes, known as crates. The contents of these crates can have a serious impact on gameplay and led to accusations that the game gives paying players an advantage over everyone else. DICE says it won’t reinstate crystal purchases until it’s made unspecified changes to the game.
The move was first spotted by players with early copies of the game and shared by the likes of Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann on Twitter, prompting speculation that an official announcement was on the way. Such a statement came shortly after, published on the game’s official website. Here’s that statement, from DICE general manager Oskar Gabrielson, in full:
Thank you to everyone in our community for being the passionate fans that you are.
Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows. You’ve seen this with both the major adjustments, and polish, we have made over the past several weeks.
But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right.
We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.
We have created a game that is built on your input, and it will continue to evolve and grow. Star Wars Battlefront II is three times the size of the previous game, bringing to life a brand new Star Wars story, space battles, epic new multiplayer experiences across all three Star Wars eras, with more free content to come. We want you to enjoy it, so please keep your thoughts coming. And we will keep you updated on our progress.
This is a drastic step by EA and DICE, though it may be the first time the publisher and developer have seemed genuine about fixing the game’s aggressive monetization.
Though the move is surprising, the sheer amount of backlash against the game over the past month did seem to necessitate an unprecedented fix. After negative feedback to the crate system during the game’s beta, EA reworked the system in an attempt to assuage fears the game would be pay-to-win, but its troubles were only just beginning.
As launch grew closer and more details emerged, players began to sour on the loot boxes even more, with some community members claiming buying crates still offered too significant an advantage during gameplay. This was followed by the discovery that some hero characters, including Darth Vader, were so costly that it would take dozens of hours of grinding to unlock them. After an EA representative’s response became the most downvoted comment in Reddit history, the publisher once again relented by reducing hero costs by 75 percent.
That still wasn’t enough to satisfy players, who next grew angry about the daily cap on credits you can earn by playing the offline Arcade mode, as well as one site’s rough calculations predicting it would take thousands of hours to unlock everything in the game without paying.
An Ask Me Anything session on Reddit designed to convey to the community that EA was listening ended without much in the way of firm promises and failed to generate much in the way of goodwill.
And now here we are. Despite all the back and forth between the fans and the publisher and developer, this feels like the first thing EA has done that truly shows it understands just how unsavory the system they built into the game is to the average gamer. While the noble thing would have been to never build any kind of predatory microtransaction system into a full-price game in the first place, this is certainly more than the least the company could have done. With any luck, it will be the first step towards making Star Wars Battlefront II into a fun, well-balanced game players can enjoy without feeling exploited, even when the microtransactions do inevitably make their return.
Star Wars Battlefront II launches November 17th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Those who purchased the Elite Trooper Deluxe Edition can already play.
Update: VentureBeat reports that this move came after a call between EA CEO Andrew Wilson and Disney CEO Bob Iger, so it appears the publisher may not have acted entirely out of the goodness of its own heart. Still, even if this happened only because Disney leaned on EA out of concern its billion-dollar brand would be tarnished, it’s still a step in the right direction.