I didn’t play the original Star War: Battlefront. I own but didn’t play Star Wars: Battlefront II. And that’s as a committed Star Wars fanboy. The reason is that I make it a point not to play commonplace shooters and clones like COD, Battlefield, or HALO. Of those three franchises combined I have only owned one of the games and that was HALO 2 which I honestly bought because of the sword. It’s for that reason that I didn’t play the first two Battlefront games. To me they just looked like any other shooter with a Star Wars coat of paint. And in the long run I believe that my choice to not play those types of games has been the right one for a number of reasons. But I was ready to play the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront by EA/DICE.
When I first heard that a new Battlefront was being made I immediately brushed it off. I assumed it would be yet another crappy traditional FPS clone and added it to the “games I won’t ever be buying” pile. To my surprise, by the end of E3 (2015) I was ready to preorder. After hearing that the game let you choose between first and third person perspective like the originals, I was curious. After hearing about some of the various characters you could play as and the supposed differences from Battlefield, I was intrigued. But once I saw that E3 gameplay footage I was sold.
You have to understand my situation to truly appreciate how serious this moment was for me. I don’t preorder games often. I can count them all on my fingers. In fact, I’ve sworn off preorders multiple times because every single preorder I’ve ever gotten with the exception of Mass Effect 3 Collector’s Edition has been an overwhelming disappointment for me. Even God of War: Ascension, which is one of my favorite franchises of all time, completely disappointed me, and if I could go back and not preorder it, I would. My last preorder was Destiny and we all know how that goes. I still hate myself for ever buying that game.
The sad part is that the only reason I ever get sucked into preorders is because of the “special” DLC bonus content they use to corner you in. Without that I would never consider preordering a game ever again and wouldn’t have preordered any of the ones I have before. Why did I think Thief was going to be a good game? Preordered the special edition. But Star Wars: Battlefront was different.
This is a game that didn’t and still hasn’t offered any special content for preordering. There are some early access bonuses but it’s stuff that all players will eventually have access to in the opening months free of extra charge. There was/is absolutely no reason to preorder this game. But I didn’t care. That footage sold me. I was enthralled. I had to play it and I had to be sure I would get a copy. I don’t even own a PS4. I was ready to preorder the not yet announced bundle. That’s how much I wanted to play this game.
Never before has an E3 reveal hooked me so hard. If you read my blog regularly then you know how much I dislike the next gen consoles and that I’ve been putting off getting a PS4 for as long as possible. But I could wait no longer. I had to play this game. I literally prayed for a good bundle and that’s exactly what was delivered. But there were no prices revealed. So again, I prayed for the Limited Edition bundle to be $400 or less and even though it was a bit delayed, again the Lord delivered and dropped the price from $450 to $400. I don’t care if you believe in God or not, but for me this was a gaming miracle. My prayers had been answered and I was going to get a Star Wars: Battlefront Limited Edition PS4 bundle.
The only reason I hadn’t already ordered one was that I was still trying to get the money together, but I was absolutely preordering it. It didn’t matter that I knew preordering went against my better judgement. It didn’t matter that there was literally no benefit to preordering. It didn’t even matter that I had literally just a year earlier preordered another shooter that had been revealed at E3 and was thoroughly disappointed with it. I was going to preorder this game. And the beta, which sadly I couldn’t play due to a lack of hardware, only made me want it more. Everyone I talked to who had played it was sold. Even people I knew who hadn’t planned on getting a PS4 decided they wanted to buy one so we could play it together after trying the beta on PC. The articles I read stating that it wasn’t just Battlefield with a Star Wars skin only made me want it more. For once, I was gonna get a Star Wars shooter that let me both use light sabers and not have to play a crappy game of COD. It was Star Wars gamer heaven and I would be among the chosen. That is until they started actually divulging information about the finished game.
Never before has a game gone from being so desired by me to absolutely never going to be purchased in so little time. Understand something: Off the bat they said this would be a multiplayer only game for the full $60 price tag. That in and of itself is ridiculous. Yes, we’re going to have this discussion again even though it’s all been said many times before. You can’t sell half a game for the price of a full game and feel justified about it. Single player takes gameplay, graphics, sound (effects and score), writing, voice acting, and building in replay value. It’s extremely hard and expensive to make a good single player game and there’s a reason it costs $60. Some single player games are so legit it’s a wonder they don’t charge more. The Witcher 3 will continue to be my go to example. But multiplayer requires maybe half that stuff. You need gameplay, graphics, sound effects, a couple tracks of music which don’t have to be full length and can be looped, no voice acting (sometimes it is used but it’s never mandatory), and some sort of rewards system that motivates people to keep playing.
Basically other than gameplay, multiplayer doesn’t require any of the hardest parts of a quality game. Writing is extremely hard to do well for devs today when you have to be PC and include every single minority group or risk offending someone. Voice acting is expensive and requires a lot of time and effort. The right music can make or break a game’s atmosphere. And getting people to want to replay your game after already finishing the story in a way that’s not cheesy or annoying is practically an art form in and of itself.
Essentially EA/DICE asking $60 for this particular game, assuming it had the same amount of multiplayer content at release as any of the recent Battlefield games, is just appalling. Yet I was still ready to buy it. I assumed there would be a fair amount of content, and after they announced no micro-transactions would be in Battlefront I was comfortable overpaying for this particular multiplayer only game. But then they made the mistake (and thank God they did) of announcing that the reason there would be no micro-transactions is because there would instead be one (for now) big macro-transaction for some future DLC. They didn’t explain how much DLC this would be in detail and they didn’t say if any future paid DLC would be offered after this first season pass. But they did say that they were charging $50 in a lump sum DLC pack. Let me say that again in gamer terms. EA is charging practically the full price of a new game for DLC for the lighter half of a full AAA game that was already $60. WTF!
Now as a person who does not in any circumstance other than special edition purchases ever buy DLC, I was pretty much done with the idea of preordering Star Wars: Battlefront. The same was true for pretty much all the people I had convinced to buy the game to play with me. But I was still considering buying the inevitable GOTY edition that would include all the DLC. Not the best thing ever because I would have to wait a year to play a game that I still really wanted to play on my terms. But it still meant that I would get to play and enjoy what should have been an excellent game.
Then, in typical EA/DICE fashion, they kept on making more announcements. Like the fact that the game wouldn’t have native voice chat. What the hell is that? It’s a multiplayer only game. They didn’t have to do half the work of developing a normal game and they still built it like we’re back in the time period that the films were released. How can a modern multiplayer game not have voice chat? And even more unacceptable; how dare EA/DICE justify it by telling players to use their own third party chat software if playing on PC. Personally, I wasn’t gonna play it on PC, but that’s just rude. How can you make a game about science fiction guerrilla warfare with laser swords, giant mech vehicles, and space ships where the troops can’t communicate with each other? Even in the movies they have voice chat. And we’re not talking about some new unheard of game mechanic. We’ve had voice chat for like the last two generations of gaming. How can such a game even function properly, as in organized planned battles and not a HALO bloodbath, without team voice chat? This was a hard blow for a game that was already struggling because of the season pass. And then they kept on talking.
Less than a week later it was then announced that Star Wars: Battlefront wouldn’t have private matches. They did say that they would possibly add them in the near future but no guarantees were made. Now personally I don’t mind this too much based on the way I actually play PVP games. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s just one more thing that lowers the value of the game by again not including a standardized multiplayer mechanic. How in the hell are they charging $110 for this crap? Essentially they’re selling a PS2 game with no single player content at the price of two games. And there’s still time left for them to continue to disappoint the consumers with more horrible announcements.
At this point I don’t see myself ever buying Star Wars: Battlefront. If they make a GOTY edition with all the content and they’ve patched up these various holes in standard gameplay mechanics, then maybe, but that list of ifs is growing ever longer with no positives to make up for them in the interim. But what’s really sad and downright scary is the fact that many people seem to be totally ok with the direction this game is taking. People really just have no shame or care about throwing away their money anymore and it seems that a majority of hardcore FPS players have just accepted unfair business practices and bad management as the norm.
Let’s start with voice chat. I think most everyone can admit that choosing not to include native voice chat is in no way a development cost, technology limitation, or resource issue. It’s an old and well established mechanic that already exists on PS4/XBOX ONE in games of the same genre. At this point it’s a simple copy and paste job for adding it into a game. The only real possible justifications for not including it are style and ethics. The style argument is crap because again they have voice chat in the movies. To try and argue that including it makes the game seem less authentic is just a flat out lie/lack of knowledge of the source material. The ethics argument is an odd one, but it’s the one the public seems to have latched on to. Every time someone talks about COD they always say they hate the “14 year old boys talking about their mother.” As a person who doesn’t play COD I can’t say how much it really happens. I can say it hasn’t really affected COD’s sales numbers. But if you go look on the IGN comments section about Battlefront not having voice chat you will see plenty of commenters saying they’re happy that the game has no voice chat for that reason.
Personally I think that is not only a dumb reason, but also an unjustified one and I blame the developers in this case. The fact is that developers for whatever reason have been lazy about voice chat for too long. We have seen several games that have customizable voice chat. I still say Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood had the best voice chat of any game for the simple reason that you could mute specific players at any time while in the lobby and I believe during matches as well. It could be done with specific players one at a time or the entire group. The PVP voice chat was entirely in your control. This was a great mechanic. I loved being able to turn off whiney kids and still be able to talk to serious players at the same time. I still don’t know why such a system was removed from later installments of the franchise. Mass Effect 3 had a mute specific players option that worked pretty very well too. There’s no reason that all multiplayer shouldn’t have these sorts of customizable voice chat options today. It’s just bad development on all counts and the fact that consumers are supporting it because they just don’t want to say anything bad about the game is quite troubling.
Now I haven’t read any comments anywhere where people were in support of the game not having private matches, but I’ve read a number of responses where people were totally ok with it and still planned on buying the game day one without batting an eye. This is a problem. Not because private matches are some important aspect of the gameplay that people can’t live without. It’s important because it’s a basic mechanic that we have had for a very long time and have a right to demand when paying full price for a game. It doesn’t matter if we want it or not. The fact that we’re paying full price means we should expect and get the standard minimum features of other games in the genre. We should be complaining instead of complying because we’re not getting $60 ($110) worth of game even though we’re being asked to pay that price.
More importantly than anything else, people are actually happy and in support of the $50 season pass. When did people get so stupid, indifferent, selfish, and spoiled that being asked to drop $50 for stuff that should already be in the game became not only tolerable, but praised? That makes no sense. I’ve actually argued with people about this because many people are actually walking around saying that EA/DICE should be charging this extra $50. Why? You aren’t getting a full game to begin with. It has no single player. How is a few extra maps, skins, and possibly weapons worth $50? Even Destiny added some new classes, story based missions, and completely changed the economy of the game. And they waited a whole year to do it.
The worst argument I’ve heard is that “it’s already been done in COD.” Apparently because COD: AW had a $50 season pass that now makes it ok for every FPS title to have one. First of all, no. Let’s please not ignore the fact that COD: AW had a single player campaign that was supposedly pretty good and featured Kevin Spacey. It’s an entirely different situation. The only reason Battlefront has a $50 season pass is because enough people were stupid enough to buy a $50 season pass for COD: AW.
People love to argue “that’s just the way the business is now” as if their own decisions aren’t affecting the business. When you allow something to happen by paying for it you’re telling other devs it’s ok to do that same thing in the future. It’s not that they just decide that they’ll do it suddenly. They look at sales number and reception. They check social media. They consider the cost benefit comparison. It’s because it’s profitable to have paid DLC and micro-transactions that those things exist. It’s not because devs just decided one day that they liked them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Game development is a river, not a series of puddles. Each time something happens and we buy into it, we’re telling future dev teams that it’s ok to do, even if we don’t actually want to see it again. The only way to stop a practice is to not support it monetarily.
The really depressing thing is that a lot of gamers have given up. Spoiled rich kids just throw their money away and have convinced themselves that devs should be charging exorbitant prices because “game development is more expensive than ever.” Their lack of sympathy for their fellow less fortunate gamers is really narcissistic and shows that as a community we kind of suck overall. But at least they actually believe in what they’re paying for. The much worse people are those gamers who know in their hearts that they don’t agree with these crazy DLC prices and micro-transactions but still pay for them because “they can’t change anything.” That’s not true. The fact is that we can change things if we all just stop paying for it. If you want to see paid DLC go away just stop buying it. Or at the very least don’t buy day one. Wait for the GOTY edition.
The truth is that Star Wars: Battlefront will make a ton of money and sell a preposterous amount of overpriced season passes. But the bulk of purchasers will not be the true believers who are happy to pay that extra $50. It will be the addicts who don’t want to pay the extra money but just can’t make themselves say no. If we all just practiced some self-control and didn’t buy the extra content, games would stop charging for it. Eventually developers would stop selling incomplete games. If they didn’t think they would make any extra profit by doing it the practice would quickly cease to exist.
Imagine a world where less than 1000 copies of Star Wars: Battlefront were sold. Literally everyone says they won’t support a multiplayer only game with $50 of prepaid DLC and they actually back up the claim. Do you know how quickly Battlefront would release that DLC free of charge? Gaming is a buyer’s market. Devs want you to think they hold the power but really they don’t. They live or die by our wallets. If we really don’t like something and we take the time to say we don’t on social media and back up those complaints by not buying, things change. Remember the always online XBOX ONE? Microsoft changed that almost overnight. Remember the original Destiny: The Taken King pricing scheme? Changed in about a week. Sure it wasn’t as drastic as we wanted but the point is Bungie listened and changed things for the consumers. We hold the power. We need only to exercise it.
What’s most important about Star Wars: Battlefront is that this is another watershed moment in game development. Please don’t believe for a second that EA is confused about what they’re doing or that this game is just a cash grab to coincide with the new movie. This is a test game. This game is intentionally being released with so many anti-consumer issues because they want to see what they can get away with. EA wants to know just how far they can bend gamers over and still make a ton of money. There’s a reason they’re doing it with a Star Wars game. They know it’s almost impossible to resist for many people. They want you to give in to the dark side because it will begin your indoctrination. If this game sells it will essentially be giving devs permission to make other games this way. Then as more are made, consumers will grow to accept them just as they already have micro-transactions and overpriced DLC. Then when asked to pay for it in the future, consumers will say exactly what so many of them are saying now. “That’s just the way the business is now and I can’t change that so I’ll just deal with it.” It’s a cycle of greed and conditioning that allows yearly cycles of the same game, unfinished releases, and less and less standard features in newer titles. If we don’t stand up and fight against it, we can only blame ourselves for the negative future outcome.
EA is a publicly traded corporation. They have no soul and they don’t care about the consumer other than what they’ll pay for. No this isn’t some conspiracy attack on the company. This is fact. The company was voted worst company in America two years in a row yet never saw a noticeable dip in profits. We have continued to support them knowing they don’t care and thus they won’t change. And why should they? Business ethics isn’t real in any American company. No dev with stockholders would ever do the right thing on their own. They must be beaten into submission with our wallets. Or more literally, without our wallets. If you want to see AAA development practices stop charging for DLC and releasing unfinished games, stop buying unfinished games and paying for DLC. And remember that once you’ve spent the money your opinion ceases to matter. If they already have your cash you’ve already shown them that they can get you to give them money without them doing what you want. A prostitute will take the cash from you whether they’ve earned it or not. It’s always been about the money and it will continue to be. The way you get what you want is to not hand it over in the first place.
If you believe Star Wars: Battlefront is justified in its currently announced form for $60 ($110) and you actually want to play it then you should absolutely go buy it. I don’t believe anyone should do something they don’t believe is right or not do something they do believe is right. But if you do have a problem with the game for any reason then I implore you not to buy it and to tell other people you know not to buy it as well. Take control of game development and put an end to practices you don’t agree with. Don’t let this push towards bad games continue any longer. Stand up and speak out.