As a gamer for over two decades I’d consider my relationship with games to be something of a privilege. I’ve been lucky enough to live in a household where both my parents shared a natural affinity for them. Playing everything from the NES to the PS4 gives you a robust perspective on games and by extension the industry that produces them. Being a committed advocate for the medium is relatively easy when you’ve been nourished with decades worth of interactive pleasure and considering the mediocre times we endure on a daily basis, the simple gratifications enabled by games is all we can hope for sometimes. It’s fair to say however that during my tenure as a gamer the way in which we consume content has altered radically. The advent of online gaming is arguably the biggest amendment implemented, allowing gamers from across the world to interact together with seamless anonymity. But like anything good in this world it only takes time before it is exploited and abused by those in a position to do so. To have something pure and good-natured adapted into something manipulative and selfish, with loot-boxes being the most contentious and EA the most prominent publisher to utilise them.
Season Passes and day 1 DLC are dubious alternatives of generating additional income from consumers who’ve already spent £40 to £50 on the initial retail product. But there’s something far more deceptively sinister about loot-crates. The innocuous method of coercion is so passive, yet intrinsically persuasive. You open one loot-box, earned by your own dedicated endeavours and find a “shiny thing”. Now for instance this particular “shiny thing” increases the power of a gun, giving you a distinct advantage against an opponent who hasn’t acquired this specific “shiny thing”. But it occurs to you that with another “shiny thing” in your inventory that power doubles, making you an even tougher adversary. But why waste time accumulating the necessary points by playing, that would negate the current advantage you’d have, when you could buy your way to success, thereby sustaining this favourable statistic. Of course you can’t just buy the specific “shiny thing”, oh no. Repeated purchases are required, costing £10? £20? £50? £100? More?! Essentially gamers are held hostage by an inert gambling mechanic implemented to sustain financial equanimity that exploits both adults and children, as well as leaving those that choose not to indulge in extra spending at a discernible disadvantage.
Though EA aren’t the only ones cultivating additional earnings through suspect means, they have positioned themselves as one of the leading abusers in their field. It’s interesting then that the manipulation of the Star Wars brand has provoked the collective vitriol of the community, but not other EA published titles like “Need For Speed” or “Fifa”. Considering the overt distension of loot based supplements that contaminates these titles, with arguably more conspicuous assertions, it’s curious just how much gamers are willing to tolerate when it isn’t Star Wars. People genuinely appear to be subservient to the contentious services provided by micro-transactions and the alluring privileges of possessing virtual trinkets. Consisting of items and accessories that provide distinct advantages that they’d rather pay for rather than earn. Of course the subsequent controversy surrounding “Star Wars Battlefront 2” has seen EA repealing that doctrine, if only temporarily to mitigate the ensuing controversy that could potentially scupper the launch of one of EA’s most lucrative assets.
This is a small yet justified victory for consumers, yet ultimately mute considering that EA have a business model that necessitates the prolonged facilitation of a loot crate system, that will have to be reinstated sooner rather than later. If not then perhaps EA might consider alternative means such as a subscription service? The question remains however is now that many chose to purchase Battlefront on the basis of EA’s “goodwill” gesture, whether these same adopters would still be happy to buy loot box’s? Probably, I suspect, which nullifies the serious implications of its discriminatory “pay to win” principles. For EA to endorse and facilitate what is essentially a gambling mechanic is so ethically fallacious I can’t believe the gaming community hasn’t reacted as vehemently to its other properties sooner. Certainly applying any kind of morality doesn’t seem to be financially viable to their directives. And it’s a dormant issue that has resided peripherally for many years.
It’s these kind of dubious circumstances that has deterred many long time gamers, especially older ones from participating. I genuinely believe the reason people of perceived maturity give up gaming isn’t necessarily because they’ve outgrown these infantile endeavours, but because of the considerable expense as well as the monetization of the content. My 12-year-old self would look at loot box’s with utter confusion, spitting out a raspberry flavoured slush puppy all over my latest issue of The Astonishing Spider-Man with disdain. The idea that “Gran Turismo” would add offline single player content as an extra incentive, a substitute no less to the multiplayer is unthinkable! A decade ago that would have been statutory, now it’s a redundant feature that detracts from the money churning profitability of multiplayer exploitation.
Buying a game now is like ordering a gourmet burger. The menu suggests that it comes with bacon, cheese, some fat chips (not fries) and a side of onion rings, but when the meal arrives it’s just a soggy bun and an undercooked beef patty. Smeared with that synthetic plastic cheese substitute, with a suspicious expiry date that exceeds your own life span and accompanied by cold chips and a scratch card. With the waiter informing you that you won’t have access to salt, pepper or any condiments that may improve the relative modesty of the meal. Unless you pay extra or open the mystery box, that more than likely contains that flaccid piece of gherkin no one eats.
Sorry to say EA, but I think I’ll continue to dine in another restaurant.