Gamers anxiously awaited Star Wars Battlefront II. What they found disappointed many of them. Amid other questionable choices from other devs, EA and Dice face scrutiny.

By now, many know about the polarizing inclusion of money exploits in various video games. Formerly dominated by mobile games, AAA games such as Destiny 2 and Street Fighter 5 lock content behind paywalls. Battlefront II utilized randomized loot boxes and faced severe pushback.

In an unprecedented situation, what is the future of loot boxes or microtransactions as a whole?

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Star Wars: Battlefront II | EA & DICE via US Gamer

What’s the Issue With Pay to Use Content?

Microtransactions for cosmetics or experience boosts in a free to play game like League of Legends is okay with most people. You can identify which skin for which champion you want and it is clearly laid out for you to buy. While they do also do “Mystery Skins” sometimes, you can still buy those skins without just using the random option.

But people still refer to it, if jokingly, as “gambling.”

This is the entire issue surrounding the loot boxes from Battlefront II. Since you cannot a) see what you are paying for and b) cannot buy the items any other way, many–including politicians–see this as gambling. It incentivizes users to pay more and more in the hopes that they get the item they want.

Sound just like a slot machine in a casino, no? Loot boxes became the snowball leading to an avalanche in the games industry.

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Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn | Dan Calvert & Guerrilla Games

Microtransactions: Symptom of a Greater, More Troublesome Cause

One of the main reasons microtransactions rose to such popularity is the increasing cost of video game production. More time-intensive jobs, increased VFX, more robust animations . . . everything takes time and money. And, similarly to movies, if your project falls in a certain financial window, it will NOT recoup the costs of making it.

Games like Battlefront II have infinitely bigger budgets and support teams than something like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. This game (which I personally enjoyed very much) only needed to sell 300,000 copies to break even. Fun fact: it has sold more than 500,000 so far.  

Even golden child game of 2017 Horizon Zero Dawn had a budget of $47-million USD. However, global sales exceeded 2.6-billion USD. Couple this with the fact that gamers are actually undercharged across the board.

GTA: V (another fantastic game) cost more than $200-million USD to make and market, but still costs $60.00 USD to gamers. Much like U.S. salaries, the cost of games has not really been properly adjusted for inflation.

So, with microtransactions, you can keep prices the same or drive them down as we see with free to play models like LoL or Warframe. With new legislation against loot boxes, how will developers and studios respond?

The Future of Game Development: Microtransactions, Higher Prices, or Incomplete Games?

While DICE developers responded very compassionately as above. The damage control paid off, but the damage is irreversible. That damage: stock losses to the tune of $3-billion USD and a fractured faith of the fan base.

Despite this, the devs have implemented changes to address loot boxes and progression issues. In fact, loot boxes may not be returning to Star Wars: Battlefront II at all. Given that their inclusion would require more transparency, DICE and EA may just opt for “normal” microtransactions. But changes and new restrictions may impede that model, too.

And while some gamers feel that Battlefront II is the “last straw”, I have to wonder. Is this any different from how Bioware basically releases an incomplete game and then charges you for the subsequent story as “DLC”? I’m referring, of course, to 2014’s hit Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Coincidentally, EA owns Bioware, too.

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Aurich Lawson | ThinkStock

Speaking of Conspiracy Theories in Nerd-dom

One of the craziest things flying under the radar right now is how the story campaign in Battlefront II could have been the story of Rey’s parents. Two elite warriors from The First Order defect on Jakku–one of whom happens to be force sensitive. True story: they have a daughter together.

I’ll not ruin the rest of the campaign for those who haven’t played. But if you read the Inverse article, the coincidences add up very quickly and dissatisfyingly in light of the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

What other solutions could fix this microtransactions quandary in which AAA game developers find themselves?

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