Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2017 awards continue today with our award for Biggest MMO Story, which was awarded to the death of EverQuest Next last year. This isn’t an award based on popularity as measured by hits or comments, and it’s not for a single article; it’s an award for an ongoing narrative or event of deep importance and significance for the genre in 2017. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end!
The Massively OP staff pick for Biggest MMO Story of 2017 is…
Among the controversy of EA’s pay-to-win lockboxes in Star Wars Battlefront II emerges a rather reasonable question: Why didn’t the studio create and use cosmetic rewards in these lockboxes rather than selling progression through them?
An EA spokesperson claimed that the company was concerned about “violating the canon of Star Wars” with pink-skinned Darth Vaders and the like, but it turns out that such cosmetic customization was in the works all along. Fans have found a hidden customization menu for characters tucked away in the game’s coding that wasn’t activated for release, hinting that the team had originally envisioned allowing players to adopt and use all sorts of cosmetic skins.
Meanwhile, another one of EA’s upcoming titles is falling under increased scrutiny with its microtransactions model. UFC 3 recently went into beta testing, during which players discovered that “the more a player invests into their account the better their performance will be in game.” Yes, it’s loot crates all over again becoming the gatekeeper to progression, holding access to “every single technique, fighter, and stat roll.”
Not everyone in the video game industry is shying away from lockboxes or denouncing them outright. Take-Two Interactive President Karl Slatoff took the side of the ESA by saying that he doesn’t consider lockboxes gambling and that the Red Dead Redemption 2 studio will continue using microtransactions going forward.
“The whole gambling regulator thing, we don’t view that sort of thing as gambling. Our view of it is the same as the ESA statement for the most part,” Slatoff said during a recent confererence. “That’s going to play its course, but in terms of the consumer and the noise you hear in the market right now, it’s all about content […] You can’t force the consumer to do anything. You try to do your best to create the best experience you possibly can to drive engagement. And driving engagement creates value in entertainment. That’s just how it’s always been and always will be.”
As the conversation over lockboxes continues to ramp up, a story of one teen who got caught up in online gambling and spent over $10,000 on video game microtransactions is drawing the attention of many — as is this scathing piece at Polygon taking EA’s poor apologies over Star Wars Battlefront 2 to task.
It looks as though the rebels may have defeated the empire — or at least struck a mighty blow to give the latter pause.
CNBC is reporting that the fallout from EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II and its lockboxes has done serious damage to the company’s bottom line. EA’s stock price dove 8.5% following the uproar over Battlefront’s egregious lockboxes, the resulting decision to (temporarily) remove them from the business model, and weaker than expected sales. This means that $3.1 billion of shareholder value has now vanished. That’s no small potatoes.
Wall Street Analyst Doug Creutz said that this may be the catalyst that sets some serious changes in motion for the video game industry: “We think the time has come for the industry to collectively establish a set of standards for MTX implementation, both to repair damaged player perceptions and avoid the threat of regulation.”
KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren, who surely makes more money than you do, wants you to know that he’s a gamer too! And he assures you that you’re paying too little for games! In fact, KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren says the real problem with the whole Star Wars Battlefront 2 monetization fiasco – the one that apparently worried Disney enough into making EA turn off microtransactions – is actually the big scary powerful gaming press, some dudes on Reddit, and their “popular press narrative.”
“This saga has been a perfect storm for overreaction as it involves EA, Star Wars, Reddit, and certain purist gaming journalists/outlets who dislike microtransactions,” KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren insists. “Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices.” Indeed, KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren estimates that you’re paying only 40 cents an hour for the average video game, compared to 60 cents for TV and 80 cents for a movie rental! Shit, guys, I’m going to go write EA a check right now.
Whenever you see a studio call fans “passionate,” it’s almost always shorthand for “rioting with pitchforks and torches.” Guess what Star Wars Battlefront 2’s execs are calling its players this week?
DICE GM Oskar Garbrielson apologized to the game’s “passionate” community about the missteps that EA made in locking its characters behind a prohibitive grind and aggressively pushing microtransactions. He said that the team is disabling all in-game purchases with crystals, at least until the company can figure out a better way to implement them:
“But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right. We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.”
In case you ever wanted to sniff the distinct scent of internet dumpster fire, you probably should’ve gone to the Star Wars Battlefront II DICE developer AMA on Reddit yesterday and watched that EA world burn. Almost 30,000 comments later, EA’s handpicked community masseuses didn’t walk back any of the specific business model shenanigans or the “sense of pride and accomplishment” blither, and players are actually madder now than they were when they downvoted EA’s comments 677,000 times on Monday.
- Wall Street is freaking out over the potential stock hit to EA should the game launch poorly thanks to angry gamers.
- Belgian authorities are reportedly investigating SWBF2 (via GIbiz) to determine whether its design amounts to a money-fueled game of chance, in which case it would be subject to gambling laws and potentially be fined or censored.
- Players have assessed that it’d take over 4500 hours of play or $2100 to unlock everything in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 as the game’s monetization is currently set.
- Finally, that “EA dev” who claimed he’d received death threats? It’s no longer clear he’s an EA dev, let alone that he received death threats, and he disappeared from social media after Kotaku went digging. Astroturfer? Hmm.
. With thanks to Sorenthaz and Miol.