So the Battlefront II drama has hit a fever pitch today. Everywhere you look, there is an opinion on why the game is harmful to the gaming landscape – I could talk about it for hours, but honestly there is enough media about this that I can relax and assume you know what I mean. (If you aren’t up to speed, check out Jordan’s article when you get the chance)
The real point to be examined here is how we, as the consumers of these products directly contribute to their existence. As we pre-order, purchase and in-game buy content, the fiscal health of the companies responsible for them swell – and they can then continue to produce. But when is it harmful for us?
Battlefront II is an interesting case, if only because we now live in a time of unparalleled communication between these same companies and ourselves. I am sure we are all exceptionally aware of that particular Reddit post that claims that 40+ hours of gameplay grind is designed to benefit your personal pride – not incentivise the purchase of shortcuts. A point that is difficult to swallow when you see items like the Battlefront Starter Pack appearing in the related stores for this title.
The truth of it is that however much we feel attacked by these pricing models, at its core there is a very involved party to blame, that may well be the genesis of it all.
All of us.
Now, hear me out. I am not saying that we are all awful shitheels – nor did we hold a gun to EA games head and demand they put this kind of garbage in the game, but the fact that microtransactions, loot boxes, obnoxious progression systems and unlocks have progressed to this point means that it must work on some level. So many studies into the methods of in-game/app purchases and the phenomena of ‘whales’ reveal staggering figures – VentureBeat revealed ridiculous 2015 statistics such as ‘Only 0.15 percent of mobile gamers account for 50 percent of all in-game revenue.’ This is staggering – and amazingly similar within the AAA-gaming landscape.
The average Joe may not drop too many ducats on a title, and he may even consider himself an activist against such monetisation schemes – “If I do not support this methodology, games may change for the better.” It’s not an untrue thought. I personally pride myself on the number of titles I have restrained from purchasing items in, because in my opinion it was a dodgy practice for them (I actually covered this in an old video I produced, about the game Evolve). But the ugly truth is that when numbers are lined up on paper, it can be a very attractive option to effectively anger 98% of a title’s playerbase, because the remaining 2% could be very profitable.
But we can’t wholly blame the whales either. They are making use of the resources offered to them in a way that benefits them. This entire mess is one that has had input from a great many angles.
So where do we stand? Today the r/StarWarsBattlefront subreddit is trending. A massive amount of people are cancelling their preorders, and words from the EA Games / Dice stable are revealing that they are aware of the backlash. It looks like a unified voice is being heard, and the fact that articles such as this one now exist speaks volumes. But can the anger of thousands steer the ship? Gamers being angry, and boycotting items isn’t unheard of – in fact, one of my favourite images of all time was born of such a thing:
We have been angry about a great many things, with varying degrees of success.
But each time this happens, we get a little better. We just need to make sure that any actions taken by those who produce our gaming titles is accepted the correct way – not with a parade, and incredible adulation, but with appreciation that they have considered their playerbase. Being called a ‘consumer’ is at its core an insult, but it’s the truth of any business model – the item produced is consumed by people. And we need to be smart consumers – but more so, we need to be resolute. Stick by your guns, and when you say ‘No’, make sure you mean it.