After the recent news that came from Jason Schreier of Kotaku, that EA's open world Star Wars game was cancelled, there have been many debates surrounding the company's handling of the franchise. Many believe that EA is squandering the licence and further still, many believe that the Star Wars licence must be taken away from them. As we see many gaming companies move towards 'Games as a Service' we should look back at what that actually means for gaming. We can speculate all day and night about how successful an open world Star Wars game could have been, however, that is the way EA will be doing things moving forward. Focusing on ideas that will be able to be heavily monetised. So let's look back to the distant past of 2017 and the release of Star Wars: Battlefront 2.
Firstly we need to look at what the game was like before the updates and the hatred came pouring in. Focusing heavily on microtransactions and a 'pay to win' mentality, the game was a mess. Enticing players with spending real-life money on virtual items was bad enough. Yet these items gave objective enhancements to the player that purchased them. Giving them a massive advantage over a player who just…played the game. It was entirely possible to earn these rewards in-game, making the microtransactions seem arbitrary right? Well to unlock the most iconic characters in the game (Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, etc) would take literal days to grind. Each hero used to cost credits to unlock and credits would be earned after every match.
The issue was that the amount of credits you actually earnt was a pittance compared to what you would need. Around this time it was estimated by a Reddit user that it would take two full days of grinding to unlock just one of the characters. EA, being their kind and generous selves, offered players another way to earn credits. Let's all say it together, three, two, one, Lootboxes!
Each lootbox would have a decent amount of credits making that pesky wait for a new character seem trivial. Currently it would seem like lootboxes have been all but removed. When I started playing the game just a few weeks ago, all of the hero characters had been unlocked, except for newcomers Obi-wan Kenobi and General Greivous. Making the game seem much more streamlined and more enjoyable as a result.
Secondly, let's take a closer look at what EA thought they were doing. In this section it's important to know what EA's mindset was in creating the system they did. "The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes". An infamous quote from an EA representative who posted that on Reddit. Famously becoming the most downvoted post in Reddit history (I was there it was glorious). EA thought that the progression enstilled a feeling of positivity in the player and a sense that they were having a satisfying experience. This was clearly not the case and it showed just how tone deaf the publisher seemingly was/is. This one post garnered so much ire from fans of Star Wars and gamers in general that it cause EA to effectively go radio silent on the matter.
Fast forward to today and the Reddit community for the game seems much healthier. With far more interaction between the players and the developers who try their best to communicate and implement the ideas of the fans into the game. It is proof that even a game with a massive publisher can communicate with a fanbase. Especially significant since the Star Wars fanbase is particularly passionate.
I think it's fair to say that Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is a game that has seen massive improvements over the last year. The focus on progression being tied to actually playing the game has enhanced its fun factor tenfold. DICE has now made the game enjoyable to play without the guilt of supporting a horrible monetisation strategy. It is very important to note however that this would never have happened unless fans spoke out and decried the business tactics of EA. Had these events not happened it is likely that the game would be in the same state now as it had been at release. A truly saddening thought considering just how much people told EA to stop yet not seeing any immediate change. Since EA took over the rights we have seen two major releases, the game this article discussed and its predecessor.
After nearly four years of holding onto the licence a large amount of people would say that they are wasting it away. Especially after cancelling two games that everyone was excited for. The Amy Hennig led game being developed by Visceral (who later got shut down) and just recently this untitled, open world game. During E3 2018 we saw a rather lackluster announcement of a new Star Wars game titled Jedi: Fallen Order. A game that we have heard very little about. Will this join the graveyard of the other projects shelved by EA? Or will it become a far different title focused on maximising profit? It's safe to say that all eyes will be on EA and its galaxy far, far away.
If you are interested in checking out Star Wars: Battlefront 2, take a look at this trailer: