Crystal microtransactions are returning to “Star Wars Battlefront II” on April 18, publisher Electronic Arts announced on Friday. Bought with real-life money, they’re one of the ways fans can unlock cosmetic appearances in-game.
EA removed crystals last year following controversy over “Battlefront II’s” microtransaction and loot box systems. Players can buy loot boxes with either crystals or credits, which are earned through in-game activities. They can also use credits to unlock iconic “Star Wars” characters like Luke Skywalker, but prior to the game’s launch, the characters were prohibitively expensive. One Reddit user estimated it would take two full days of grinding to get one. Since credits are also found in loot boxes, many fans believed EA made the characters expensive to push them into spending real cash for quick unlocks.
The outcry over EA’s aggressive use of microtransactions was massive. The publisher received the most-downvoted Reddit comment in history when it tried to defend itself, saying that its intent was “to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.” It chose to temporarily disable crystals at launch and later overhaul “Battlefront II’s” loot box and progression systems.
The “Battlefront II” controversy, along with similar quarrels between publishers and fans in games like “Destiny 2” and “Middle-Earth: Shadow of War” led to a larger debate about the role of loot boxes in video games. Some politicians in both the U.S. and abroad called the practice a form of gambling for children and are exploring possible regulations.
In a recent interview with The Verge, EA’s new chief design officer, Patrick Söderlund, said the last six months post-release were an important learning experience for the company, one that will shape how EA operates going forward.
“I’d be lying to you if I said that what’s happened with ‘Battlefront’ and what’s happened with everything surrounding loot boxes and these things haven’t had an effect on EA as a company and an effect on us as management,” he said. “We can shy away from it and pretend like it didn’t happen, or we can act responsibly and realize that we made some mistakes, and try to rectify those mistakes and learn from them.”
Next week’s update brings other changes to “Battlefront II.” It’s getting a new limited-time mode as part of the Night on Endor update called Ewok Hunt. The mode lets players battle for the forest moon as either the cuddly murder bears or stormtroopers. There’s also 50 additional appearances, including Endor Leia and Endor Han.