Star Wars: Battlefront II was heavily criticised for the way it allowed players to pay real money to get loot boxes that could contain items that actually affected gameplay. Some cried out that this represented a pay-to-win situation. It was a lot of bad press for EA. In response to this, EA removed microtransactions from the game completely just before its public launch, with the developer saying it needed more time to adjust them before bringing them back. Today, EA confirmed that microtransactions are coming back in April, though this time around you will only be able to purchase cosmetic items--that is, those that do not affect gameplay. Previously, EA let you pay for an opportunity to get items that gave you a theoretical advantage such as improved grenades or shields.
Before microtransactions return, however, EA is launching an update on March 21 that significantly changes how progression works. Presently, Star Cards and other items that impact gameplay can be acquired in loot boxes--called Crates in Battlefront II--that you can unlock through normal gameplay progression. But with the new update, the only way to get Star Cards is through standard progression. "If you earn enough experience points to gain a level for that unit, you'll receive one Skill Point that can be used to unlock or upgrade the eligible Star Card you'd like to equip," EA said.
If you already acquired Star Cards, the good news is that you won't lose these when the update comes out. Additionally, all of the extra heroes and weapons you already unlocked will stay with you when the patch arrives.
Regarding Crates specifically, you'll get these in a number of ways, including logging in every day and completing the game's various timed challenges. Crates will only include cosmetic items--such as emotes or poses--as well as Credits.
Then in April, EA will launch a new in-game store where you can buy new character customisation options by spending Credits that you earn by gameplay or by spending Crystals that you can get with real money. As an example, EA said you'll be able to make a Rodian Resistance fighter, which wouldn't happen in the official Star Wars canon.
Interestingly, it's this kind of canon-breaking mash-up that EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said last year was one of the reasons why the company did not offer cosmetic-only items in Battlefront II's loot boxes. In fact, Jorgensen said EA was against cosmetic items all-up.
"If you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon," the executive said at the time. "Darth Vader in white probably doesn't make sense, versus in black. Not to mention you probably don't want Darth Vader in pink. No offence to pink, but I don't think that's right in the canon."
It remains to be seen how deep the customisation will go. Indeed, we wouldn't imagine Disney would be OK with the kind of situation Jorgensen offered up. Then again, this happened, so you never know what Disney might be OK with.
Whatever the case, EA said the updates to Battlefront II's progression system are a "major step" in the company's effort to "improve the core of the game and add new content."
In addition to the changes laid out below, EA said it is planning to add new modes to Battlefront II in the future to keep things interesting and fresh. Some of the modes will be "radically different" than anything that's come before. We'll report back with more details as they are announced.
The debate around Battlefront II's initial microtransaction system extended beyond gaming circles. Lawmakers from the United States and around the world launched investigations into loot boxes too, in some cases, try to determine if they constitute a form of gambling. In the wake of the Battlefront II controversy, the ESRB announced that it will put a label on games that will read "In-Game Purchases" to inform people, and in particular parents, that the game they are buying offers the ability to spend extra money. Some are questioning the effectiveness of this and asking if this new system will be effective at all.