As you might know if you’ve been paying even the slightest attention to video game news, EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II was forced to drop microtransactions before it even launched. This was because the loot boxes you could buy had a chance to award game-winning items and abilities.
Pay-to-win is a bad system at the best of times, but not even having a guarantee of what you’re paying for? Terrible.
When they removed the microtransactions, EA issued a statement saying they needed time to adjust them before bringing them back. It seems it’s time. They recently confirmed that April will see the return of microtransactions, with one critical caveat:
Only cosmetic items will be available.
It used to be that loot boxes had a chance to give you Star Cards, an in-game item that affected how effective you were in battle. Star Cards affected your gear and abilities, giving you better weapons or shields. Every Star Card could be gotten through loot boxes, which made sense since that was the only place you could get them. Being able to buy loot boxes meant that you could just buy a whole bunch until you found a super powerful item that meant you’d always win.
On March 21st, EA updated the game to get rid of that feature. Star Cards cannot be gained through loot boxes anymore; instead, they’re gotten through normal gameplay. “If you earn enough experience points to gain a level for that unit, you’ll receive one Skill Point that can be used to unlock or upgrade the eligible Star Card you’d like to equip,” EA said. Nothing players already had, such as Star Cards, heroes, or weapons, have been taken away.
As for the loot boxes, they’ll now only include cosmetic items, which affect nothing other than appearance. In addition, April will see the launch of a new in-game store where you can simply buy the cosmetic items you want instead of replying on the randomness of loot boxes. The store will accept either Credits, which are earned through gameplay, or Crystals, purchased with real money.
As you might know if you’ve been frequenting The Game of Nerds, lawmakers in the US and in Europe have been hotly debating the legality of loot boxes. Some argue that they are a form of gambling, and as such, should be restricted as any other form of gambling. The ESRB recently announced a label reading “In-Game Purchases” that will alert parents that the game they’re buying includes microtransactions, but honestly, I don’t think it’ll be that effective.
When’s the last time you looked at the rating on a video game, after all?