At the Credit Suisse 21st Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen had to explain again how the debate around microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2 forced EA to abandon monetization completely (albeit temporarily) a day before the game's launch. Jorgensen was asked why EA didn't opt for a more consumer-friendly cosmetic loot box option like Overwatch, to which Jorgensen explained had to do with LucasArts trying to preserve the Star Wars IP.
This answer is a bit surprising considering earlier answers from EA about cosmetics made it sound as if it had more to do with timing than anything.
"The one thing we're very focused on and [LucasArts'] extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars," said Jorgensen in response to questions about cosmetic purchases in the game. "It's an amazing brand that's been built over many, many years. So if you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon." Jorgensen cites the fact that it would be weird if Darth Vader was in white or pink armor than his traditional black outfit.
Instead, Jorgensen stands by EA's original microtransaction plan with Battlefront 2, which allowed players to essentially purchase their way to the best upgrades rather than spend hours upon hours of game time to unlock them. "Some people have more time than money, and some people have more money than time. You want to always balance those two[,]" said Jorgensen.
What's odd with Jorgensen's response to questions about Battlefront 2's microtransaction is that he makes it sound as if cosmetic options are more difficult to implement due to working with LucasArts on the Star Wars IP. However, Dennis Brannval, an associate design director on Battlefront 2, actually talked about cosmetic customization in a Reddit AMA hosted a few days before the game's launch. When Brannval talked about cosmetic loot, he made it sound as if it was more of an issue with not getting customization out in time for the launch than any conflicts with canon.
One Reddit commenter asked why EA didn't opt for a cosmetic loot option, something they said they would happily pay money for. Brannval responded:
Nothing is too late. As you've noticed, we weren't able to get the customization system into the game in time for launch. I'm actually having artists and designers walk up to me today showing me cosmetic stuff they really want to get out there. I think we have probably the best looking Clone Troopers ever made and I know players really want to customize them (I know I do). I can't really commit to a date just yet, but we're working on stuff and I believe it will change the game [tremendously] on all levels."
A difference between what Brannval said during the Reddit AMA and what Jorgensen told Credit Suisse Conference is that Brannval was talking about Storm Troopers, a class of characters that could probably host more varieties in design than Darth Vader who only has one real iconic look.
But with Jorgensen doubling down on microtransactions as a means of progression versus Brannval's earlier comments suggesting the development team is still working on a cosmetic system, it's hard to get a clear picture on what's going on with Battlefront 2 and cosmetic loot.
We've reached out to EA for clarification on the matter.
In the meantime, the fallout from EA's Battlefront 2 microtransaction debate continues as national governments in Europe, along with states like Hawaii push for loot boxes to be recognized as gambling.