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Shortly Before Star Wars: Battlefront 2's Release, EA Removes Microtransactions For Now
[UPDATE 4] With Battlefront II now available without microtransactions, EA's stock price has taken a hit, dropping 2.49% to $108.82 on launch day. A report from the Wall Street Journal states that Disney CEO Robert Iger did not, in fact, speak with EA, though he is described as being "alarmed" by the anger online. However, Disney head of consumer products and interactive media Jimmy Pitaro did contact EA to let the publisher know about Disney's concerns.
[UPDATE 3] Battlefront II is officially out now. Industry analyst Daniel Ahmad of Niko Partners weighed in on the news on Twitter, pointing out that microtransactions and loot boxes are not going away. "They're already accepted," he said. "All that's happening is EA tweaking the system to make it 'fun and addictive" instead of 'intrusive and predatory."
[UPDATE 2] VentureBeat is reporting that EA CEO Andrew Wilson spoke with Disney CEO Bob Iger over the phone today before the Battlefront II changes were announced. The report doesn't mention what they might have talked about, though a chat about Battlefront II's loot crate system seems more likely than discussing plans for the weekend.
[UPDATE] EA released a statement on Battlefront II's microtransactions, confirming they have been removed, but only temporarily. "We've heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages," DICE boss Oskar Gabrielson said. "And we've heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn't get this right."
All in-game purchases for Battlefront II are now removed, with all progression now exclusively tied to gameplay. EA is bringing back microtransactions "at a later date," but not until the studio has time to make unspecified "changes to the game." More details on this changes will come later as DICE considers more feedback and date. One possibility is that Battlefront II's microtransactions will return as cosmetic only, as is the case in Overwatch and other games, though this is just speculation.
"We have created a game that is built on your input, and it will continue to evolve and grow," Gabrielson explained.
As it stands, all of Battlefront II's DLC maps will be free, though there is no word as of yet about if today's announcement changes anything. The removal of the game's microtransactions comes just hours before Battlefront II is due to launch everywhere on November 17, though as mentioned, it's been available for some already.
Microtransaction systems are commonplace in AAA games today. In fact, it is rare for a big game to not have a microtransaction system. What's different about Battlefront II's system is that players could spend real money for the chance to unlock items and weapons that actually affect gameplay, and that's part of the reason why players got so stirred up. Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto Online also offers microtransactions, and they make parent publisher Take-Two lots and lots of money.
The original story is below.
It looks like big changes may be in the works for Star Wars: Battlefront II's microtransaction system. It was discovered today that you can no longer purchase the game's virtual currency, Crystals, with real money.
Accessing the Crystals purchase page on Xbox One today yields the screen below. As you can see, it does not give you the option to buy Crystals. However, you can still purchase them through the Xbox.com store, at least for the time being (though that may have something to do with Microsoft, not EA, controlling that page). We're working to confirm the situation on PlayStation 4 and PC. Keep checking back for more.
Star Wars: Battlefront II's microtransaction/loot crate system has been highly contentious and controversial running back to when players discovered how the system worked in October's open beta. Loot boxes come with random items, but instead of things that are cosmetic only, they can also contain game-affecting things like deadlier grenades or cloaking abilities that give players a theoretical advantage.
Naturally, some portion of the audience did not enjoy this. Developer DICE made major changes to the credit-unlock values for heroes, reducing the in-game currency cost by 75 percent for characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. However, no changes were made to the actual microtransaction system, at least until now.
Today's action comes just a day after Belgium's gambling authority launched an investigation into Battlefront II (and Overwatch) over concerns that its loot crate system could constitute gambling. In response to that, EA came out with a statement that stressed that Battlefront II's loot crates "are not gambling."
Earlier this week, DICE held a Reddit AMA in which it responded to, among other things, concerns about Battlefront II's microtransactions. The developer said microtransactions are available as an optional way to potentially speed up your progression. Everything that you can get in a loot crate can also be obtained via gameplay.
"Regarding microtransactions, we want players to enjoy their progression through the game and want gameplay to be fair along the way," the developer said. "Microtransactions are there for player choice, but won't be a requirement to play or succeed at the game. And like everything else, we'll continue tweaking and tuning until we achieve these goals."