Should Disney And LucasFilm Be Worried About ‘Star Wars: Battlefront II’?
If I were an executive at Disney or a producer at LucasFilm involved in not just the making of the next Star Wars film, but in managing the sanctity of the Star Wars brand, I might be the slightest bit concerned over the latest headlines.
Specifically, I might be concerned over the massive backlash EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II is facing from fans upset over the game’s economy and progression systems. The controversy stems from the game’s system of loot boxes which players can purchase on top of the base game to earn special rewards.
Setting aside the question of whether or not said loot boxes are a form of gambling aimed at least in part at children—and I do believe they are—in this specific case, the game’s loot boxes also create unfair advantages for players who shell out extra cash.
If I were a Disney executive or a producer at LucasFilm, I might find this troubling. These are not things I’d want associated with such a precious IP as Star Wars.
We know that Disney/LucasFilm are sticklers when it comes to how these games are designed, both in terms of narrative and visuals. But what about the spirit of the game itself? What about how the game is monetized? Is gambling (or quasi-gambling) something Disney wants associated with Star Wars? Is controversy over pay-to-win accusations something Disney wants associated with Star Wars just weeks ahead of the release of The Last Jedi?
Star Wars is a family brand. Its audience spans generations, from young kids just seeing the films for the first time to grandparents who were young adults when they first saw the original films. Likewise, a game like Star Wars: Battlefront II is aimed squarely at families, from gamers in grade school to gamers with full-time careers. After all, this is a shooter with no blood and gore, just like the movies it’s based off of. I happily let my kids play its predecessor which, for all its flaws, had no loot boxes and no scheme whereby paying extra gave certain players a leg up over others.
It strikes me as very odd that a game focused on families would be pay-to-win, one of the least sportsmanlike concepts in the history of gaming. As a parent, I want to teach my kids the value of teamwork, practice and fair play. How do we explain that in this game, you can also get ahead by spending more money? Honestly, how do we explain how this game works at all? Its labyrinthine progression system, multiple currencies, loot boxes, various ranks and so forth are all impossibly complex.
There should not be this much controversy surrounding the Star Wars brand in 2017. Indeed, I’m not sure there has been this much controversy since the unfortunate days of Jar Jar Binks who, it should be noted, is not a playable Hero in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Thank the midi-chlorians for that.
I suppose there’s a silver lining in all of this, after all.
P.S. This comes on the heels of EA’s closure of Visceral Games which was working on a major Star Wars game. That’s just more bad news surrounding the Star Wars IP as it struggles to become a force in video games.