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Those Hoping Star Wars Battlefront 2 Will Flop Amid Loot Box Controversy Should Look to NBA 2K18

NBA 2K18 was the best selling sports game of September 2017, even after getting angry feedback from its microtransactions.

News by Caty McCarthy, .

Sports games have had a long, controversial history with microtransactions. FIFA, Madden, NHL, and NBA Live's versions of Ultimate Team gently coax players into spending money to build amazing teams right off the bat; or contrarily, they can grind for hours upon hours for the same results that opening their wallet does.

Recently, speaking with our Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey, she joked that NBA 2K18's progression that's tied to virtual currency basically requires a $100 buy-in for players to get the most out of it. That's because if players don't pay money to build up their story mode character (who can be playable in the online Pro-Am and MyPlayer modes), they're stuck to grinding that character out. If they ever dive into the game's multiplayer with said character, they're bound to get rolled by the players who do pay money to build up characters. Grinding becomes a more arduous task, as a result. That's where the problem is.

When NBA 2K18 launched in September, it was marred by its insistence on virtual currency, coupled with game-breaking bugs. NBA 2K18 was in rough shape at the start, to put it mildly, and fans and critics alike sounded off against it online. Yet one month later, it seems those criticisms were only coming from a vocal minority. The game, despite having arguably the loudest angry feedback ended up being the best selling sports game (in a sea of sports games) in September.

In a statement provided to Forbes by the NPD Group, they wrote, "NBA 2K18 was the top selling sports game of September 2017. With one month of sales NBA 2K18 also became the best-selling sports game year to date. NBA 2K18 had the largest consumer spend in launch month of any Sports genre title since the current generation of consoles launched in November 2013. NBA 2K18 was the second best-selling game of September overall."

With Star Wars Battlefront 2, it's likely that EA is seeing these sorts of numbers, and trying to capitalize on it. They're bringing the sports game microtransaction model over to well, every other video game. Battlefront 2 is likely the first test of it.

And like NBA 2K18, fans aren't pleased about it. In fact, they're pretty pissed off at the presence of loot boxes and how they're directly tied to progression. EA's responded adequately—in hosting an almost-disastrous Reddit AMA to hear from the community, in cutting down the cost to unlock heroes by a staggering 75 percent. But still, to the fans, nothing seems to be enough. Given the success of sports games and microtransactions, even after NBA 2K18 slashed its virtual currency prices amid the controversy, the game still did remarkably well the entire month. Maybe Star Wars Battlefront 2 will too.

There's a new Star Wars movie out soon, and given the sales of the last Star Wars Battlefront, it wouldn't be outlandish to assume that its sequel will do just as well, if not possibly even better. It's a multiplayer game with Star Wars in the title, after all. Obtrusive microtransactions or not, it might not matter at the end of the day. Players will continue spending money. The rest of the internet might just be the vocal minority. We'll see how the game performs commercially when it launches this Friday, November 17th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #1 KaiserWarrior A year ago
    In the end, there are two kinds of people that spend money on video games: People that "care about video games", and people that just want to be entertained.

    The former group are the ones that are up in arms about GambleBoxes and all the attendant issues, but they are absolutely tiny in comparison to the latter. The latter group, on the other hand, is absolutely huge, and does not care about these issues. It's enough, for them, that NBA2K18 allows them to play digital basketball to supplement their watching of basketball on TV. If it costs more than it would have in years previous -- even substantially more -- they're not bothered. Because it is one of the handful, if not the only, game they will buy this year. they haven't been playing and closely following video games for decades. They don't have a point of reference for how thoroughly they're being ripped off, and ultimately it doesn't matter, because it entertains them and they can afford it. It's what the market will bear.

    Ultimately, it's what the market will bear for Star Wars, as well. And Lord of the Rings. You ever notice how the most egregious monetization schemes always seem to be attached to games that are surefire huge-sellers regardless? Properties that are ultra-popular, not just with people who play video games, but for people who consume modern media as a whole?

    They're just not for us. Big-budget, AAA video games are not for video game hobbyists anymore. Haven't been for a long time, really. We're not where the money is, not the Big Money, and Big Money is all that mainstream AAA publishers care about.

    There was a time when EA made Road Rash. They would never make a Road Rash game today. The subject matter isn't popular enough. They could easily monetize the holy hell out of it, but they won't bother because the potential audience isn't large enough to make Big Money from, so why waste their time? That's why Road Redemption fell to an independent studio to make.

    It's just time to accept that we're not the target audience anymore. There are studios making games that are for us, but those studios aren't under the umbrellas of EA, Activision/Blizzard, Ubisoft, or Take 2.
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #2 Godots17thCup A year ago
    Yeah, despite the hullabaloo surrounding Battlefront II's dubious monetization choices, I have little doubt that it's going to end up being an enormous financial success for EA. Tons upon tons of people are going to buy this game, and enough of those people are going to buy into the system that they'll end up filling EA's coffers for years to come.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #3 MetManMas A year ago
    @Godots17thCup Yeah, despite the complaints there's no way that Star Wars: Battlefront II will fail. Just like with the first, it and the new set of accompanying PS4/Pro bundles are releasing at just the right time: before Black Friday, Christmas, and the newest episode.

    Hell, if anything it'll probably do even better.Edited November 2017 by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #4 MHWilliams A year ago
    "The latter group, on the other hand, is absolutely huge, and does not care about these issues. It's enough, for them, that NBA2K18 allows them to play digital basketball to supplement their watching of basketball on TV. If it costs more than it would have in years previous -- even substantially more -- they're not bothered. Because it is one of the handful, if not the only, game they will buy this year."

    I believe this was a point I made on one of our earlier episodes of the USgamer Podcast and it's still true. If you buy 6-7 games a year or more, you notice the microtransactions much more than the person that buys 1-2. Hell for them, micros may be a boon, given that they probably have more money than time.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #5 UnskippableCutscene A year ago
    To me it's about context. I expect to pay for game balance related rewards in Hearthstone, it's a digital TCG. I would be upset if the Overwatch boxes were anything other than cool cosmetic items.

    Battlefront is trying to have it both ways, putting gameplay progression inside boxes. That's a deal-breaker. Probably it's intended to overcome the lost income from making maps free and not having a season pass, but Overwatch was able to not have a season pass AND add free maps AND keep the box stuff strictly cosmetic. And guess what, people bought it in droves!

    I'm not anti-box, and I actually bristle at the people trying to tie it to gambling an in effort to look bad (though this is possibly because my life is tied to casinos more closely than some people, I feel like a lot of nuance is being lost there in terms of differing economic systems.) It's just more about the difference from a serious competitive shooter to something like Clash Of Clans.
    I don't want a AAA game that looks like Quake but is monetized like Clash, especially if there's ranking-based matchmaking and not just open lobbies of whatever. I've never played Clash, but I've listened to game writers here and other sites talk about such mobile-based titles that sell upgrades, and inevtiably the matchmaking service is going to stick you in a title where you are disadvantaged by budget, because it benefits the developer to make you outraged that you lost a battle of the credit cards. You'll feel more incentivized to buy upgrades if you actually see them used against you.

    Just about the only mobile game PVP experience with paid perks that I can tolerate is Gameloft's UNO oddly enough, which lets you buy straight-up cheating like seeing other people's cards. I can live with it only because as a victim I don't know if someone bought cheats or not, I just know that I played my best and things went terribly wrong, and I'm blissfully blind as to whether that was by chance or by design.Edited 3 times. Last edited November 2017 by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #6 SatelliteOfLove A year ago
    @MHWilliams

    Or gambling personalities.

    Note also they won't be informed from news that what was in last years iteration isn't in this one except for filthy lucre.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #7 UnskippableCutscene A year ago
    @Ohoni That'll go about as well as legislating violence did. However I will point out that even actual, in-the-casino gambling are legislated state-by-state. If a state such as California were to take the lead, the rest of the country could likely end up playing in complicit with their rules, the same way the rest of the country got 5MPH bumpers on their car after California mandated them. It would be too much work for developers to comply with a bunch of different states and make everyone live under the strictest set of rules.

    But I also don't want to open this door, because much like how freeing the whales leaves you wondering what about every other animal in the zoo, it's very easy to draw a line between addiction victimization and, say, MMO design and subscriptions.
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