Some of you may have been following our coverage of the controversy over EA’s Microtransaction system that was implemented into Star Wars Battlefront 2. The quick re-cap is that Star Wars Battlefront 2 features loot crates you can buy with real money that may or may not contain the items and upgrades you actually want. This, coupled with an extremely long, xp based levelling up system has inspired a lot of outrage at this apparently ‘pay to win’ set up by EA.
EA have never been fan favourites but this time they appear to be stirring up a lot more anger than usual. Regardless of the player outrage, the serious problem that EA are currently bearing the brunt of involves international courts potentially ruling against this type of micro-transaction as a form of gambling. This would massively restrict the age range for prospective players and basically exclude a huge part of gaming’s target demographic.
So far we have reported on the Belgian and Dutch courts moving to classify this practice as gambling but the French have also begun to look into the case as well; meaning a ruling from the European Court of Justice could well be coming. The Americans are making progress too. The Hawaiian state representative Chris Lee seems to be laying the groundwork for future legislation against this type of micro-transaction:
It’s important to note that the legislators looking into this are not targeting all microtransactions, just the ones where you pay for a chance to get what you’re after. It’s also worthwhile to point out that EA are far from alone in using this practice, they just happen to be taking the heat for it at the moment as they’ve recently released a massive game that heavily relies on it.
But despite being on the pointy end of some very serious legal challenges and player outrage, EA appear to be cheerfully carrying on. At the 37th NASDAQ investor conference EA’s CFO, Blake Jorgensen stated that:
“It’s been a great learning experience for us; we consider ourselves a learning organisation… If we’re not learning, that means we’re failing in some way and we’re constantly trying to watch what people do and how they play and listen to them to decide what’s the best way to build great games.”
While very positive, this position doesn’t actually include an apology (even if it does acknowledge mistakes). Jorgensen went on to hint that it was still possible that EA might not bring the microtransactions back after all. They had originally cut the system right before the full game was released with plans to re-introduce it after the outrage had simmered down and they were able to tweak progression. But the fact that they are potentially giving in to the fan desire to be free from the pay to win economy may actually prove that the threat from the various international gambling commissions is very real.