December 14, 2017
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‘Battlefront II’ pulls in characters from across the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. — Handout via AFP‘Battlefront II’ pulls in characters from across the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. — Handout via AFPLOS ANGELES, Nov 16 — Facing a forceful backlash against its implementation of optional payments, high-profile retail game Star Wars Battlefront II is suffering at the hands of not just fans and critics but also one of its biggest studio rivals.

It’s the latest and perhaps most aggressive example of a recent trend in video game development.

Like Lord of the Rings adaptation Middle-earth: Shadow of War and licensed basketball game NBA 2K18 before it, Star Wars Battlefront II has come in for heavy criticism over its use of microtransactions.

Assembling a line-up of heroes and villains from across the Star Wars franchise, Battlefront II offers an original single player sequence of story missions and an accessible, engaging multiplayer.

Like many recent high-profile retail games, it also allows players to send extra money to the game’s publisher and developer through a system of small, optional payments known as microtransactions.

In retail games, such additional payments are generally limited to cosmetic upgrades, so as not to tilt the balance of power in favour of those with more money.

Why are microtransactions here? Because publishers’ financial reports show that players are willing to spend on them.

But Battlefront II locked in core characters and higher-level upgrades behind a time-consuming progression system.

Because that system can be circumvented through microtransactions, players who pay more can buy instant advantages over those that don’t, say Battlefront II critics.

Unlocking everything would take “4,528 hours or US$2,100 (RM8,770),” according to one widely circulated community estimate, based on a November 9 early access trial — a figure unacceptable to players already paying upwards of US$59 for the base game.

The situation snowballed when a defence of the system, posted by a spokesperson for publisher EA, became Reddit’s most downvoted comment in history. (The previous record holder had explicitly asked for downvotes.)

EA soon altered Battlefront II, cutting costs by 75 per cent, but the rate at which players earned free credits was also adjusted downward.

Now rival publisher Blizzard has stepped into the fray.

Its parent, Activision-Blizzard, has frequently crossed swords with Electronic Arts, particularly over competing franchises Call of Duty (Activision) and Battlefield (EA.)

In a series of November 14 tweets, Blizzard highlight the appeal of strategy game StarCraft II, recently rebranded as a free-to-play release.

“Number of hours it takes to earn the full StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Campaign: 0,” the game’s Twitter account noted, “number of hours before you can play ANY Co-op Commander in StarCraft II: 0.”

“Number of pay-to-win mechanics in StarCraft II: 0.”

While StarCraft II is not in direct competition with Battlefront II, 2016 saw Blizzard release acclaimed multiplayer-centric team game Overwatch, whose microtransactions were limited to cosmetic upgrades only.

Star Wars Battlefront II releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC from tomorrow. — AFP-Relaxnews



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