Star Wars Battlefront 2's multiplayer producer Paul Keslin has addressed the controversy surrounding the game's loot boxes, claiming that while EA and DICE have responded to fan feedback regarding their implementation in the game's beta, the purchasable crates are "sometimes a necessity."
In an interview with YouTube critic AngryJoe, DICE's Keslin was pressed on both the developer and EA's response to the negative press surrounding Battlefront 2's loot boxes. During the discussion, Joe asked Keslin why Battlefront 2's loot boxes couldn't have solely consisted of cosmetic items, considering the wealth of material the Star Wars universe offers. "So I think you'll start to see some more of that stuff from us later on, and the real heart of it is that it is an authentic Star Wars game, so it needs to look and feel authentic, so that was our first and foremost plan," Keslin explained.
"Loot crates are sometimes a necessity to allow players to gain access to some of those customization options," he claimed. "We'll look to influence that a bit more post-launch, but right now that's the direction we have. But with player feedback, and once we've gotten the core down and the basics down with LucasFilm for launch, we can start exploring a lot more afterwards."
Earlier in the internet, Joe stated that the inclusion of microtransactions had diminished his excitement for the game. "I was so excited for [Star Wars Battlefront 2] until I played that beta and I saw those loot boxes, and the way they were working in the beta, it made me mad," he explained. "So I'm curious — was it DICE having group watching sessions for YouTube videos that saw all the feedback, or was it EA and then they sent out a mandate? Where did the feedback come from?"
"I think it was mainly fans, so whether that be YouTube videos, forums, Reddit, there were a lot of places we looked for feedback," Keslin replied. "The beta is definitely a place where we're experimenting with things, it's meant for us to try out stuff ahead of time, so we can tweak and change things ahead of launch. So what you saw in beta was absolutely our attempt at something, and then it's open to fan feedback."
Joe then asked Keslin to explain why EA and DICE feel that it's necessary for microtransactions to be pushed into a $60 release, to which Keslin replied: "There's a few reasons. It allows us to give players an opportunity to hopefully try things that they're not normally going to try. We've seen at EA in some games past, if you allow players to single-mindedly focus on a certain path, they'll try two or three things that they like, and then not engage with the rest of the game and then they might stop playing the game early."
He continued: "We would prefer our players to play our games for a long time to come — we've put a lot of time and effort and love into these things, we want to make sure people keep playing them."
When Joe noted that the inclusion of loot boxes "keeps that sort of addictive sense going so that players keep coming back," Keslin replied: "There's some of that, but I think from our end ... if, say, you play a lot of the assault class, and something we've heard from players in the beta is 'If I play the assault class, give me rewards for the assault class.' So we took that feedback, we implemented that for the launch of the game, so that's something that we'll allow you to do."
"But in the course of doing those things, as you're earning other loot boxes, you might get a Star Card for the heavy class, and normally you don't like playing the Heavy class but you get three or four cards for the Heavy and you're like 'You know what? I have all these things at my disposal now, so why don't I just try [the Heavy class].' Hopefully you're trying something new in the game that you wouldn't normally do."
Keslin added that loot boxes were "a way of spreading out some of the things you can earn in the game," and that as players also earned a rank for playing a particularly class, loot boxes are "not necessarily your only method of progression." When Joe pointed out that to get each gun in the game, of which there are only 16, it would require players to open around 720 loot boxes as a result of crucial crafting materials being locked inside of them, Keslin replied: "That's the whole point of betas, right, it's figuring out how is that balance off or is it exactly right." When Keslin was asked how long it would take in the full game to unlock everything without paying money, Keslin replied: "I actually don't know the math behind that one."
Watch the full interview below:
Loot boxes are quite obviously intended to make publishers more money, though they are inevitably not going to outright say that this is the case, so we therefore have to endure assertions that microtransactions are intended to offer players "variety" in a game. The claim that paid loot boxes are a "necessity" in order for players to gain access to cosmetic items in games is undermined by the fact that the gaming industry went years without this being the case, and though their continued implementation may be an inevitability, the push-back against Battlefront 2 indicates that publishers are going to struggle when it comes to normalizing pay-to-win microtransactions in games.