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EA's 'Star Wars' PR Disaster Finally Pushed Gamers Into Open Revolt Against Loot Boxes (rollingstone.com) 307

Gaming company Electronic Arts is not having a good week. Bowing to pressure from early players of Star Wars Battlefront II and the historically negative reaction over the weekend to the company's response to complaints on Reddit, the company has now detailed significant cuts in the cost to unlock characters in its game and promised to continue to listen to player feedback. From a report: Most importantly, Electronic Arts today announced that they are reducing the number of credits needed to unlock top characters in the game by 75 percent. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader will now cost 15,000 credits. Emperor Palatine, Chewbacca and Leia Organa will now cost 10,000 and Iden will cost 5,000. Mashable reports on the outcry that took place over the weekend: Battlefront II isn't technically out until Nov. 17, but fans that subscribe to EA Access or Origin Access -- which give Xbox One and PC players, respectively, a five-day, 10-hour window to play EA games before they launch -- are discovering how those changes feel. And it's a bad scene, friends. "At the current price of 60,000 credits it will take you 40 hours of gameplay time to earn the right to unlock one hero or villain [in Star Wars: Battlefront II]," Reddit user TheHotterPotato wrote in a post. "That means 40 hours of saving each and every credit, no buying any crates at all, so no bonus credits from getting duplicates in crates." The Reddit post produced such a mind-blowingly negative response that an agent of EA actually responded. Unfortunately, that response made things even worse. EA's Reddit account is plastered with a barrage of downvotes, with one particular response receiving over 600,000 downvotes -- a record.
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EA's 'Star Wars' PR Disaster Finally Pushed Gamers Into Open Revolt Against Loot Boxes

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  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:27AM (#55547225)

    This is the inevitable result of microtransactions.

    Long gone are there days of just making a game and shipping it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 )

      Yeah, but that can actually be a good thing. I am playing a few early access games that change every other month, get better and better, get more and more features, some of them being a totally new game every half year or so, all for the price of a pizza.

      Granted, sometimes I get a stale pizza, but in the end, I come out ahead. And way ahead of any AAA titles I ever bought.

      • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:44PM (#55549387)

        I'd take the witcher 3 over just about any game I've ever played (and there's been a lot, going back to the early 90's) -- and definitely would take it over a pizza, stale or not.

        Good games that are fun and have artistic merit are out there; just sadly not as common as they once were

    • Re:Well (Score:4, Interesting)

      by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @12:25PM (#55548213)
      I'd argue this is more a result of most consumers being so young.

      I worked at gamestop about 10 years ago. Kids would bring in their entire collection, would get $10 for 20 games. Well worn copies of good games they obviously loved and had value "I can only give you $2 for this game you've obviously put at least a hundred hours into." They just stood there, either staring at me waiting for me to give them the shiny new game in exchange for their memories or staring directly at the game waiting to play it.

      Kids have more money than taste. I was that way when I was buying "Hootie and the blowfish" or "Ace of Base" CDs with my money from mowing the lawn, my parents were like that when they were trading baseball cards. It's just a fact of life that kids make dumb decisions with their purchases.

      That it's messing up entertainment for the rest of us isn't even new. Music has been catering to the young and dumb crowd again for generations. See my above musical tastes.

      What is new is that gamers are starting to age to a point where we're whining about the good old days, AND have a forum to whine about it collectively.
    • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kwerle ( 39371 ) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:36PM (#55548785) Homepage Journal

      No... games without micro transactions are the only ones I play - and there are plenty of 'em coming out.

      If you support micros, that's the road you've chosen. There are plenty of others.

      • They have them in the mmo I play. But they don't affect gameplay much, and subsidize the game for those who can play from start to end for free. It's a choice for players to decide to play free versus buying microtransactions versus subscribing.

    • So just don't buy the game, don't pay for the microtransactions. if a game *requires* microtransaction to "win" then boycott it. Granted, some players have bizarre definitions of "win" though. But if you need to buy a crate or unlock a character just to enjoy the game then it's past time to go outside and take a deep breath. That's far simpler than going on a rant and sending death threats - if you have that much energy then please spend it doing something useful. Of all the injustices in the world that ne

  • by Quakeulf ( 2650167 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:28AM (#55547239)
    EA seems oblivious to their own conduct outwards, but inwards they know exactly what they are doing. All attention is good attention, and this has also been great business for Reddit: https://twitter.com/Colonthree... [twitter.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:34AM (#55547285)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    I don't play free-to-play games, or games with those mechanics in them - but according to the very latest from Jim Sterling, they've hidden the refund button on EA's page for this game after the mentioned user outrage.

  • by tatman ( 1076111 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:35AM (#55547295) Homepage
    EA is convinced, like all the other game publishers, you are willing to shell out $70+ for the game, plus shell out even more cash for in game upgrades through the purchase of some kind of "in game currency" (credits, whatever). I don't know of any games I play these days that do not work off this model. It's enough to turn me away.
    • It's gotten to the point where I no longer buy AAA games when they are 5+ years old and on GOG or steam, because they are inevitably broken in some way. There is no thought towards "how can we make sure people are still playing this in 5-10 years" - it's all short-term profit now. The servers go away, the DLC or in-game currency is designed to essentially be required, and we're never going to port this to another platform, because why bother?

      The last couple I bought were also utterly crippled and broken by

      • I certainly buy fewer AAA games, but not all of them are too bad about this. The latest Doom was trying to convince me I wanted to buy some packs of some kind for multiplayer but it was too fun in single player for me to even bother.
    • by AlanBDee ( 2261976 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:35PM (#55548775)

      I can think of a good example of DLC done right: Rocksmith 2014. If you haven't heard of Rocksmith it's basically Rock Band or Guitar Hero with a real guitar and you're actually playing the song. Every week they release a song pack, 3-5 songs. They're up to about 1100 songs total. I've shelled out several grand over the years on this and am happy to do so, it's worth every penny to me. I get to cherry pick the songs I like and they all fit in a single game. I can start a random list and play till my fingers bleed (feels so good)

  • They're lucky (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sumus Semper Una ( 4203225 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:35AM (#55547297)

    I actually consider EA lucky to be getting away with just consumer backlash on public forums and emails. I'm just waiting for the inevitable lawsuits of "whale" users to expose microtransactions like these for what they are - unregulated gambling. I have no respect for a company who builds a business model around exploiting addictions.

    • Of course it is unregulated gambling. The whole "gacha"-system needs to be heavily regulated.
    • Really need to come up with better terms for this.
      For instance I don't consider Overwatch's version of loot boxes to be anywhere near gambling. Nothing you can get affects gameplay or winnability (unless you wanna count being stunned momentarily in game by a "whoa - awesome skin" moment *BLAM*) just bragging rights stuff. Sure there's randomness to the collectibles but nothing more than you'd get out of a toy vending machine at the grocery store - and those aren't unregulated gambling.
      That said, yeah, th
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      I'm just waiting for them to try pulling the "death threats and sexual harassment" bullshit to try and deflect from their shit-tier garbage. I doubt though, that lawsuit will happen in the meantime. On top of that, getting people to realize and agree that it *is* gambling seems to be an upward climb. The number of people who will argue that it isn't gambling is staggering.

  • by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:37AM (#55547309)
    EA doesn't make their numbers. Else all PR is good PR. Look at GTA V and its micro transactions. Has made rockstar more money than they ever dreamed. Think they will change this approach in the future? Not likely.

    Also I believe things will get worse for gaming and not better in the short term. Just wait till major AAA games are only subscription based only which EA has indicated on their sports franchises.
    • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:59AM (#55547491)

      My general observation with this stuff has been that someone stumbles across a new model that seems to work, all the companies jump on it like a fat kid on a Smartie, then some company pushes the idea to some egregious point where it blows up and permanently taints the model.

      Loot boxes are particularly egregious imo since they aren't posting odds and definitely are targeting people who are vulnerable to gambling.

      • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @12:11PM (#55548093) Journal

        I think where they're f**king up is in making the game pay-to-win. People will buy this as per usual, they'll feel the deep unfairness of it and not buy the next pay-to-win game I expect. For EA it doesn't matter if 90% of the user base abandons them as long as the remaining 'whales' make them over 10x more.

        Hopefully Indie companies will spot gaps in the market and keep making good games that don't stink of micro-transactions.

        I put my money where my mouth is, I don't even buy games with season passes.

  • by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:45AM (#55547369)

    EA first started milking customers with DLCs which were really portions of the game they purposefully removed, not added. Is it not enough to pay $50 for a bloody game? -Are they not profitable enough??

    It's painfully obvious that they are using basic psychology techniques to frustrate gamers into buying more.

    Shamelessly trying to squeeze every penny out of gamers that are ALREADY PAYING A PREMIUM is really bad for anyone involved in this project & the Star Wars gaming universe in general.

    This is not to "create a sense of achievement." You do that with complexity, length and difficulty. This is a cheap money grab plain and simple.

    EA just stop being a bunch of dicks. It's fucking Star Wars, IT'S ALREADY A CASH COW.
    • Why do you think EA gives a shit about Star Wars? To them, it's just another franchise with a fanbase that will pay them money. They will milk it dry and throw it on the garbage heap as soon as the brand is tarnished beyond repair.

      Like every single time before.

  • by haibane ( 4907639 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:49AM (#55547399)
    The funny thing is they basically reduced the amount of credits to get a hero by 75%, but they also reduced the amount earned by 75% on each mission. So its basically the same thing...
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:56AM (#55547447)
    Everyone's fantasy is to play the hero. But if everyone is running around in a shared game playing a hero, then suddenly heroes are normal, meaning they aren't really heroes anymore. To maintain the illusion of a heroic player character, you have to populate the world with lower-ability bots. That works in a RPG-type MMO, but not in a PVP-type MMO. SW Battlefront tried to get around it by time-limiting how long until and how often you could play the heroes. But that resulted in having to play grunts lots of times before you were allowed to play the hero (for one life after you've unlocked it). The PVP-equivalent of grinding in a RPG.

    I think this is why the CRPG genre has gradually shifted away from MMOs back to single-player instanced games in recent years. It's hard to make players feel special in a shared-world game with thousands of other heroes running around. Though a good compromise might be a shared-instance CRPG which you can play together with a few friends.

    Egalitarian PVP MMOs or deathmatch-type games, where everyone plays "characters" with the same abilities or picks from a subset of fixed choices with quasi-balanced abilities, don't have this problem.
    • There is a very simple way to make people feel "special" in a multiplayer environment like MMOs: Special loot that you have to "earn". Whatever "earning" it may mean. Throwing insane amounts of time into grinding the same mob until it drops it with its 0.0000000000001% chance, besting some tough dungeon that you need a very well equipped and cooperating group for, winning many PvP battles (and more than 90% of the playerbase), whatever. What's important is that everyone thinks they can get it but only a han

      • > What's important is that everyone thinks they can get it but only a handful really can.

        I've played a few games in pre-release status with bonuses for being near the top. It doesn't take many players before that mountain top is too high to climb.

        It's so easy to get to the average, because there's always people who sign up and give up. But there are also people out there who obsess over the new game and put ungodly hours into it... and they're the ones who will be in the top 0.01%.

        Essentially, if there

        • You needn't be unique. People are quite able to accept that they're not "on top" if they invest less time than those that are. But they still need some kind of reward for their time. MMOs make this perfectly.

          Most contemporary MMOs offer rewards in tiers, depending on how much time and effort you're willing to throw at the game. If you're just wandering around, you get zip. Which is fine, people who do that don't care about wearing the gilded mantle of the lesser little demon slayer. But they are someone to

      • There is a very simple way to make people feel "special" in a multiplayer environment like MMOs: Special loot that you have to "earn". Whatever "earning" it may mean. Throwing insane amounts of time into grinding the same mob until it drops it with its 0.0000000000001% chance, besting some tough dungeon that you need a very well equipped and cooperating group for, winning many PvP battles (and more than 90% of the playerbase), whatever. What's important is that everyone thinks they can get it but only a handful really can.

        Oh wow, I had a flashback to another story when I was reading your comment. Does anyone else remember when Star Wars Galaxies tried this very idea [slashdot.org]? As I remember it, people hated it because of how big of a time sink it was to achieve and how practically nobody would ever do it (and if they did, they'd be so burned out by the game they would just sell the account once they got a Jedi). So SOE later made a change that made it way easier to be a Jedi (I don't remember the details as I never actually played

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )

      I think this is why the CRPG genre has gradually shifted away from MMOs back to single-player instanced games in recent years. It's hard to make players feel special in a shared-world game with thousands of other heroes running around. Though a good compromise might be a shared-instance CRPG which you can play together with a few friends.

      The death of MMOs had nothing to do with that - every genre has a finite lifespan.

      • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

        Nethack is still going. WoW is far from dead.

        • by Luthair ( 847766 )
          Look I played EverQuest for years but how many new MMOs are people making at this point? After EverQuest there was a swarm of companies trying to cash in on MMOs but even before Warcraft was released that frenzy was already subsiding.
  • by nwaack ( 3482871 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @10:56AM (#55547453)
    It used to be that you spend your $50'ish on the game and then you got to play it. Now you get a purposely crippled version of the game unless you want to shell out more and more money each-and-every-time you play it. No thanks.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      So you stopped gaming because you had shit buying decisions? You've missed some pretty good games then like Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, The Witcher series then. None of those games were purposely crippled, and in The Witcher series the developers gave content away free.

      • So you stopped gaming because you had shit buying decisions? You've missed some pretty good games then like Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, The Witcher series then. None of those games were purposely crippled, and in The Witcher series the developers gave content away free.

        You forgot Factorio. If you rank all games in Steam by ratings Factorio is like #5. Seriously think about that? I think The Witcher was like #12.

    • closer to $100ish in today's dollars. Inflation's a bitch.
  • Is 40 hours really that unreasonable for this sort of game? I'm not interested in this genre of game and so I'm not aware of what the expected play time is. And the games I play don't usually have earned currency that you can spend on new characters and loot crates. That said I can, and have, put in 40 hours of gaming over the course of a long weekend. So is that kind of time investment to unlock what I presume to be one of the best characters in the game really unreasonable? It sounds like at least 600,000

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @11:24AM (#55547705) Homepage

      Not really, though I don't play these types of games anymore. I did way back in the Quake/RoTT/etc era though. People who are into the pvp-mmo style stuff can sink hundreds or thousands of hours into it. The top 5 games in my steam list are Skyrim, Fallout:NV, Stellaris, Civ4 and Star Trek Online those each top out between 400-1k hours each. A few of my friends have 600-700 hours in various CoD games.

      What's happening though is people are having enough with the microtransactions, and then developers blaming gamers when there's a backlash, along with the gaming press screeching that "they're entitled brats" or some other type of garbage. There was a similar backlash against the ME3 ending for good reason, especially when game sites called gamers entitled. Same with the stuff over Kane & Lynch and then there's the Dorito Pope. People got a taste of that whole incestuous backlash with gamergate and sites screaming "gamers are dead, they don't have to be your audience" and so on. This is likely going to be just as big at the rate EA is doubling down on it.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      It's not really my genre, but the problem is that it's 40 hours before you can even play as even *one* of the characters they are likely to have bought the game to do at all (unless of course you pay out some cash to accelerate things).

      Basically, it's trying to avoid the backlash of incremental const of DLC, but making the 'free' path so painful as to not be viable.

      DLC started as a way to extend a nice game with even more stuff, but has devolved to being a paid-for demo which manages to avoid having any of

    • I think there's a couple of factors at play.

      One is that if this is anything like the first Battlefront EA did then heroes are for one life in a match and they try to distribute them among players because honestly, it would be freaking stupid if there's 20 Lukes vs 20 Vaders. Not only are you grinding 40hrs to unlock a hero you are spending 40 hrs grinding to unlock a hero that you will get to use only some of the time.

      The other thing to consider is the opportunity cost of the grind. If you jump in and grind

    • So is that kind of time investment to unlock what I presume to be one of the best characters in the game really unreasonable?

      Best characters? I think you're misunderstanding. It's just a character. Not only do you need to grind to get him, but if you do so in the 40 hours chances are you going to have a cool character and absolutely nothing to keep that character alive.

      I don't think the backlash is as much that it takes 40 hours to get an awesome character, it's that it takes much more AND you can bypass that all for a small fee.

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @11:20AM (#55547675)
    They just removed the refund button in Origin so nobody can submit a refund request. That's illegal in Germany and a couple other places.
  • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
    "EA's Reddit account is plastered with a barrage of downvotes, with one particular response receiving over 600,000 downvotes -- a record."

    Okay, i have very mixed feelings about EA and in general i'm fine with people expressing displeasure over them trying to pull off crappy behavior like this. But it's kind of sad that the most unpopular thing on Reddit is because a bunch of people got upset that a company was trying to charge too much for a video game. I'm proud to be a geek, but our tendency to get tri
    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      It might simply be a case of enough people being involved in that one topic, rather than being blind to twenty other issues. If those twenty issues are spread out over the 600k all angry at EA, at maybe a couple of issues of interest per person, that still leaves 60k interested people per issue. We can't ALL argue against pollution, abuse, racism, hate, bigotry etc.

      • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
        True, i guess this is something we can all agree on, regardless of our politics or personal hobby horses. But it would still be great if we could manage to focus this same kind of energy on solving bigger issues.

        And to be fair i guess Child's Play is the one case where we do manage to collectively do something big, because you'd have to have some pretty extreme views to think that helping sick children wasn't a good thing.

        .
  • This is technically online gambling.

    Let's get the fucking gaming commissions in on this along with the Feds, since this lies within the jurisdiction of both. You want to see how fast these nickel-and-dime pay-to-win loot boxes go away? CA and NV gaming commissions are the state-based people you want to complain to.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      To boot, EA is HQ'd in Redwood City, California. They're doubly-fucked in this instance. The e-mail to contact is complaints@cgcc.ca.gov

  • They're right, of course, microtransactions are ruining gaming.

    But they're all going to play anyway and the launch week numbers will turn out fine, just like every other time gamers have looked like they were about to rebel against EA's anti-consumer bullshit.

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:02PM (#55548487)
    Football is the only thing keeping cable alive, and it is the safety net for EA as well.
    EA has a core base of suckers who will buy the same madden/fifa game every year, even better most are "non-gamers" who don't give a shit about what happens in some star wars game.
    fifa was the best selling game of 2016, they can afford to take loot box risks on "niche" titles which are full of whales.
  • I've played plenty of video games where extra things were unlocked after grinding.
  • Drop their games and play something else. Go outside and kick a soccer ball around.

  • EA is about milking every cent they possibly can out of your pocket.

  • Boycott (Score:4, Insightful)

    by backwardsposter ( 2034404 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @03:39PM (#55549819)

    Looks like my 5 year long boycott of EA is going well for me. It started with Origin, and realized that they've gone off the deep end for me.

    As a side note it's not JUST EA I don't play, but I'm pretty picky with my games now. They have to have feeling. I've played Breath of the Wild, Odyssey, and quite a few indie games lately, and that's fine with me.

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