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Given How the Battlefront II Controversy Has Played Out, Is There A Lesson For Sports Games?

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Given How the Battlefront II Controversy Has Played Out, Is There A Lesson For Sports Games?

Kevin Scott

I think the biggest lesson that sports games can learn from this is that it’s completely understandable if you want to implement these microtransactions that can make more money for your company, but at the same time, you have to offer players a legitimate chance to obtain those same rewards people are paying for without having to devote an entirely ridiculous amount of hours playing the game to do it.

There’s a middle ground that needs to be agreed upon. There are always going to be hardcore gamers that will shell out the money to get the cards they want, and others who have the kind of free time to spend entire days grinding for those same rewards. But companies have to start considering the more casual gamers who have paid for a game, and yet are then unable to access a large chunk of content without having to either spend more money or give up their lives to the grind.

Elliott Jenkins

I, too, believe that there’s a middle ground that can exist. Regrettably, microtransactions are an unavoidable part of the gaming landscape now. The problem with Battlefront could not exist in sports games outside of card collecting modes. Could you imagine playing a franchise mode with the Los Angeles Angels only to find that you need to pay an extra $30 or so to unlock Mike Trout? Card collecting modes are designed to function around card rarities, microtransactions, and big price tickets for big-name players. But the parallel of unlocking Battlefront’s biggest heroes for use in any mode is not quite the same as in sports gaming.

For a while, I had a blast in Diamond Dynasty this year acquiring cards and working my way towards Diamond Billy Wagner, but a 120K stub Jose Altuve was in my way. By the time I finally earned the stubs to unlock him, his value had almost doubled to around 215K stubs. At that point, after way too many hours in an annual release (let alone a mode I did not anticipate spending any time in), I became frustrated and gave up on the mode altogether. In my opinion, the big takeaway is that players will balk after seeing the obscene amount of time and/or money it would take to unlock something that they expected to be included in the release.

Matt Llewellyn

Let’s be clear. The reason this happened is because King Disney put its foot down. They weren’t going to let EA get away with bringing a harsh spotlight to their IP. I don’t believe that this really changes anything. That being said, the lesson here is don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I think we’re reaching a tipping point with nickel and diming — especially in sports games.

2K is the leader in ridiculous microtransactions, and more than anything gameplay related, the biggest complaint facing that NBA 2K is VC. The real lesson is for the consumer though. Make a big enough stink about something and actual change can happen. It’s time to speak with our wallets and let these companies know they can’t rob us blind.

What do you think? Should micro transactions be something gamers are more vocal about? Is there a healthy balance in rewards vs. paying for extras, even if they were once available as part of the base game package?

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  1. It's not the micro transaction itself that is bad it's the lack of transparency behind them. Ultimate Team and this goes for all of them and 2K should have to abide by the same transparency and provide the same consumer protections as the Sports Trading Card Industry. Gaming companies are essentially sports trading card companies in these types of games. Gaming companies use the same marketing and advertising tactics but the Sports Trading Card Industry MUST LIST THE ODDs of all inserts, chaser cards and any player likeness that is advertised as inside a particular pack of cards.
    The gambling issue is a lose lose. The courts have already spoken on this with the Sports Trading Card Industry, who went through numerous gambling lawsuits back in the 90's and early 2000s. Courts rules there was NO HARM to the buyer because he or she always received something of value back. This is the foundation on  what the loot box, crate, UT card is built on. For you kids, money isn't the only legal definition of value so forget that argument.  
    Was was interesting in a particular case. Dumas v Fleer/Skyline was that Justice Brewster did agree with the plaintiffs that the marketing techniques were illegal specifically to New  York and California law. In 1992 New York issued citations to Fleer, Upper Deck, Marvel and others, hauled them all into court and that my firends is why you see odds on a pack of Baseball Cards.
    This is the only argument that has merit and can be won on.  What Gaming Companies do is not gambling it's deceptive/predatory advertising.  The gambling aspect because of their use of slot machine and casino tactics would only effect MINORS access to these types of games.
    My other concern is we are starting to see gaming companies apply for and receive patents that give them the technology to manipulate the in game characters, their traits, powers, etc. That could open an entirely new legal battle in the aspect of fraud in as they advertise a particular character to  have the ability to do X,Y,Z. You pay for a chance at that character, win him and they manipulate it based on not just your game skill but your opponents...    
    My biggest gripe is Madden now charges money (or more specifically tickets) to play game modes like Salary Cap MUT and Draft Champs. Draft Champs was my favorite mode last year, now I simply don't play it because I'm not grinding for thousands of coins to buy tickets just to play it. Sorry. And I'm not getting pulled into the micro transaction black hole.
    So EA has essentially left me out int he cold. All I play is online games using the current teams/rosters. 
    The biggest complaint most people had with Battlefront 2  is that if you spent extra money it gave you a considerable advantage over nearly everyone else thanks to their horrendous progression/loot box system. Which is funny it got this big because "paying for an advantage/head start"is essentially what 2k has done ever since they implemented VC into their MyCareer mode.
    But you guys nailed it: Had Disney not said something to EA, then nothing would have been done about it. EA would have bandaged it up to shut up the loudest voices and that's it. It's sad EA did this to Battlefront 2, because it's really a great game and tons of fun. 
    It's gotten to a point where game companies are probably going to consider an increase in game prices to $70 or even $80 for a base game so they can continue to support it for the long term. The fact that games have stayed at $60 for so long is incredible, really. $60 can barely send a family of 4 to one movie nowadays, yet people expect a $60 game purchase to give them hundreds of hours fun and years of free content. 
    As long as the microtransactions are just part of the card collecting modes, I don't really care one way or the other. I think it is fun to accumulate cards by playing in my usual Franchise/career play (in The Show, for example), same as it was cool in NFL 2K5 to accumulate crib items by playing. But, since I have no interest whatsoever in actually playing HUT, MUT or any other card collecting mode, it does not impact me much. Where I feel the impact is by the few resources left to update/upgrade the modes I do play. And why, sadly, I now buy sports games every few years rather than every year. These are the dark days of sports gaming for my kind of gaming.
    I think sports games, well all games, will take something from the BF outrage. Now I don't see a major problem with micro transactions. I get the market. I also get the drive for more money. If people are willing to buy it, then sell it. But there is a line where it becomes too much. I think this here is showing that. The market will correct itself to get more inline with gamers expectations regarding micros. They won't go away, but I think the tide for squeezing every nickel they can out of a game has shifted.

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