The Economy (Again!)

Star Wars Battlefront II is a really fun game. It course-corrects a lot of the problems of the first one and throws in some fun turns. Dogfighting in an A-Wing and charging through Hoth feel plain fun. But Battlefront II also has a seriously screwed up economy, one that’s intrinsically tied to how the game plays.

A lot of contemporary multiplayer games have progression systems, the more you play, the more experience points you get which in turn can unlock new weapons or buffs for your character. There’s usually a great deal of balancing gone into this, where that shiny new gun plays differently, but not usually better. Key thing is, this is all tied to you playing the game.

Not so with Battlefront II. Improving your character or class isn’t done through experience, but rather through accumulating Star Cards by buying loot boxes (or crates, in the game).

Loot boxes are a thing that have been in games for a while, though are only recently crawling into AAA games. They’re a ‘box’ you buy with in-game currency that include a random assortment of gameplay items. They can be cosmetic items, like hats and skins, or gameplay things like buffs and weapons. In a good game, like Uncharted 4, they’ll be new ways to play without upsetting the competition. For something like Mass Effect: Andromeda, they’re cool new toys that reward you for playing.

But in Battlefront II, they are the only way to improve. You can clock over a dozen hours as the Assault class, but unless you buy a crate, you won’t get any of the buffs or different weapons. This isn’t a case where you can level up a certain buff by playing with it a lot (as in other games); the only way you can get a buff – and these can be some serious buffs – is from loot boxes. Randomized loot boxes, mind you. Buying a box doesn’t mean you’ll get a Star Card for the class of your choice, you could get one for the Infiltrator you never play as and a power up for Darth Vader, who you haven’t unlocked yet.

Which, even alone, would hardly be so bad – if these crates were remotely affordable. The Trooper Crate, which contains Star Cards for the infantry you usually play as, costs 4,000 credits a pop (Starfighter and Hero Crates will run you 2,400). For reference, a single match, which can last 15-20 minutes, only gets you 200-300 credits. Optimistically, that’s a little over three hours of gameplay for one randomized pack of cards. A randomized pack which, again, mayn’t even have anything of use.

Now, you can bypass this by buying the boxes with real money (at around $2.50 a pop), but after a lot of outcry publisher EA has suspended that. But improving your characters is still a massive time investment. And no one’s really happy about that – this is a $60 AAA game, not a free iPhone app. The outcry on the internet has been cosmic, prompting EA to suspend those real money microtransactions and slash the price of heroes like Darth Vader (from a whopping 60,000 credits to a more manageable 15,000). There’s also the promise of more adjustments to come, but what those are is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime, the economy of Battlefront II is completely in the lurch. We’ve already seen the price of some heroes drop by 75%, and though credits can’t be bought outright, they can be obtained through crates. In light of that, there’s (my) hope that EA will cut down the prices of the crates, so it’s less of an outright grind to improve characters (either that or tie progression to actually playing the game, but what are the chances are that?). The problem is, in the meantime, what becomes of your credits?

I’ve bought a couple Crates since the game came out, but I’ve also been stashing a lot of credits (I never dip below 10k, if I can help it [which I can]). Because if EA adjusts their economy (and at this point it’s inevitable), I don’t want to have ‘wasted’ credits. If they slash their loot box price from 4,000 to 1,000, my purchasing power quadruples. If they adjust credits from a match, well, I’ve a backlog (and they’d have to readjust milestone earnings – another thing I haven’t cashed out on yet because, again what if it changes?). And if they leave it as is, well, still credits in the bank.

But no matter what happens, adjusting EA’s economy’s gonna screw someone over. Maybe it’s someone who’s played for hours and suddenly realizes had they waited their money would be worth more. Maybe someone bought the crates before EA suspended microtransactions and just saw their dollars get undervalued. And no matter what, there’s the chance that it’ll happen because, again, they did cut the price of some heroes by 75%, so there’s a chance for another deflation. I don’t trust EA’s credits.

It’s frustrating. Because there are these features of a game I paid $60 for that I don’t get to experience just yet, or I won’t without some serious time investment. And the shame is that Battlefront II is such a fun game marred by a horrendous, random progression system.

So hopefully it’ll get fixed. In the meantime, I’m sitting on my credits like a crazy old man theorist on gold waiting for the markets to crash.

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