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.