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Published November 14th 2017
The hotly anticipated Starwars: Battlefront II will be released this Friday, but the lead-up to the release has seen controversy in the form of a Reddit backlash at a feature of the game and a subsequent reply from EA that became the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. Ouch.
While the game isn’t out yet, players on the pre-release trial period found out that in order to play as their favorite characters like Darth Vader they’d have to put in an extensive amount of play time to unlock them (or pay for the privilege).
The news hit Reddit and this post very quickly gathered momentum.
Seriously? I paid 80$ to have Vader locked?
It was posted at around 8am ET yesterday and caused an increase in mentions of EA on the r/StarwarsBattlefront subreddit, which became particularly active.
Below we show posts on the subreddit by hour, using Brandwatch Quick Search to find mentions of EA within those posts.
People were angry about the revelations – so angry that EA got involved with an ill-fated comment.
Here’s what the EA Community Team responded with.
The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes. As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we’re looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay. We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets. Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.
At the time of writing the response has -636k points. It has made history.
EA have now reduced the number of credits needed to unlock characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader by 75 per cent.
But what, if anything, can EA learn from this?
Firstly, there’s the issue of micro-transactions. Starwars Battlefront II retails at $79.99 and there’s no doubt that it’s a cool game, but players aren’t happy that they’re spending the cash only to find their favorite characters behind a paywall (or 40 hours of gameplay). Playing as Vader reportedly gives players significant advantages over players who haven’t unlocked them yet, so allowing people to pay for it could be considered unfair.
The topic cloud below shows how the complaints dominated the subreddit yesterday (loot crates and loot boxes refer to in game micro-transactions).
Secondly, vacuous corporate speak does not go down well on Reddit. A brief scroll through responses to EA’s post will give you an idea of how little time Redditors have for vague remarks written by marketers. User GooseTheBoose had the most upvoted response:
I would believe this “Sense of achievement” nonsense if I couldn’t just access it though micro-transactions. Yes let me spend 40 hours unlocking one hero or I could just pay more money…for the content…in the game…I just bought. Seriously you guys are fucks. Enough with microtransactions. When will buying the game be enough to access all the content.
The Reddit audience is perhaps the toughest of all social media platforms, and it’s important to be authentic and show you’re listening. EA might have done better to note the feedback and respond with action more swiftly. A “we hold our hands up” approach early on might have done more to quell the damage – although of course we won’t know how significant that damage is in real terms until the game is released. If Reddit commenters are to be believed, there’s no shortage of people willing to cancel their preorders.
If 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that responding quickly to negative criticism is essential. And in the age of social media, communities aren’t very forgiving when it comes to delays.
While the Reddit community is known for being harsh, sometimes users can go too far with their criticism.
In the wake of complaints surrounding the Starwars Battlefront II progression system, game developers were targeted with death threats and other general nastiness.
The mods of the subreddit stepped in, lamenting the “hatred and vitriol in the posts and comments” on the subreddit and closing the comments on the initial “Seriously? I paid 80$” post.
Here’s a popular thread from Charles Randall on why game developers can be put off being more transparent because of toxic elements of the gaming community.
The other day a friend commented to me "I wish game developers were more candid about development." He was surprised when I said we are.
— Charles Randall (@charlesrandall) September 24, 2017
Of course, trolling and abuse on social media has been around for a long time, but there are now tools available to track and tackle such content quickly to protect people. While social media is an incredible place for brands to receive and address criticism, no one should face abuse alongside constructive comments and complaints. The trolls might often be in the minority, but they can ruin online spaces for everyone.
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