The date is June 10th, 2013. On this day, EA announced during their E3 press conference that they had acquired a years-long exclusive deal to produce and publish Star Wars games. With this announcement, they premiered a teaser for a new Star Wars game. That game was Star Wars: Battlefront, a new take on the classic series that began in 2004 with the original Star Wars: Battlefront and was presumed concluded with Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2005. The announcement drove fans crazy with anticipation, as the first new Battlefront in almost ten years felt like a new opportunity to bring Star Wars games back into the limelight.
EA then fell largely radio silent on any release date news of the new Battlefront game. A year and a half went by, and then leaks started swirling. News came around of a release date around holiday 2015. Fans dared to hope, and the very next day, EA confirmed that the DICE-produced Star Wars: Battlefront reboot was due to launch on November 17th, 2015. When the game finally arrived, it boasted truly next generation graphics, fantastic feeling combat, and an original trilogy roster of heroes that brought nostalgia and excitement to every Star Wars fan that picked up a copy.
The game was a little bare-bones, however the Death Star DLC that followed fleshed it out enough for it to be considered a fair success for EA and DICE. It was flashy and slightly shallow, yes, but the game just felt so Star Wars. It was considered only natural that EA would be soon announcing a sequel to the game, and they didn’t disappoint.
March 29th, 2017. Star Wars Celebration Day. Among a host of Star Wars themed announcements and festivities, there was a panel named “The Galaxywide Premiere Of Star Wars Battlefront II”. The sequel to EA DICE’s Battlefront reimagining had been rumoured since the day before the game launched, with EA executives discussing it publicly and the usual gaming rumour mill spinning with potential announcements. Sure enough, the next Battlefront game was announced, with a release date surprisingly close by for a newly revealed game. The date was November 17th, 2017, exactly two years since the launch of the first game. Looking back on the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront II, it’s hard to imagine how the developers possibly thought the launch would carry the same triumphant tone as the first Battlefront.
November 17th 2017 was the day that EA DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront II launched. It was also the day the company single handedly squandered every ounce of goodwill they’d built up since the announcement of the exclusivity deal back in 2013.
The Star Wars deal with EA will not be remembered fondly by gamers. From the barebones launch of the original Battlefront, to the disaster that was Battlefront II at launch, to the company only publishing four Star Wars games in nine years, Star Wars fans don’t have much to thank the company for. Star Wars games used to popularise the market in droves, with every genre under the sun covered by the IP. This was a huge contrast from the mere four games there were to play from 2013 to 2022, if we don’t count LEGO games.
The biggest gaming disaster in EA’s history, however, was the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront II. Battlefront II showed so much promise. The ability to choose from a huge roster of heroes from any of the three trilogies of Star Wars. A large variety of game modes to choose from. The deep customization of each character’s abilities and moves. The one huge, game-breaking, possibly fatal error that EA DICE had made was in the game’s progression system.
Star Wars: Battlefront II was released at the time where the sun was setting on the loot box era of games. It was also one of, if not the biggest reason, why the at the time popular game feature was rolled back so quickly with immediate effect. The progression of Battlefront II was based on items named Star Cards. These cards would impact, sometimes significantly, a particular character’s power and/or abilities. The huge, huge problem was that these cards could only be acquired through loot boxes. Every match, a player would earn in-game currency, which would then be spent on loot boxes to unlock anything, from Star Cards to customization options, to character specific boosters. The issue with this was that with a system like this based on random loot, it can take a long time to get a piece of loot you actually want. And Battlefront II had a vast plethora of loot from which to feed you via its loot boxes.
Progression in this game was laughably slow. And to make matters worse, loot boxes could be bought with real world money, and not for cheap prices either. To put it into perspective, the average player would be expected to earn around 200 credits per match. Every Hero crate cost 2200 credits, every Starfighter crate cost 2400 credits and every Trooper crate cost 4000 credits. That meant that a player could expect to play twelve to twenty matches per loot box, and this is assuming that they earned those 200 credits per match, every match.
In Battlefront II there was also a secondary currency called crystals. This currency could be used to purchase loot boxes, and for a fraction of the time it took to earn in-game currency. For £5, you could buy very nearly five Hero crates, four Starfighter crates, and two of the more expensive Trooper crates. Remember, the contents of these crates was random, so there was no guarantee a player would get anything desirable from a purchased loot box, real money or not. The backlash from fans against this slow, real money based, pay-to-win system was immediate and fierce.
As a game publisher there are several things you absolutely cannot mess with. Fans’ expectations, poor technical performance, and bad value for money are among those, but the number one thing a publisher can never, ever mess with is nostalgia. Star Wars has been an important franchise for people for 50 years now, so when EA DICE unveiled this broken, imbalanced, greedy progression system, the rage from fans rolled over them and was felt through all of gaming. EA had been on a record breaking year until Battlefront II released, but upon its release their stock price dropped 8.5% month on month, wiping out over three billion dollars of shareholder value. There were interviews about the gambling systems of loot boxes all over the internet. Gamers worldwide boycotted Battlefront II and EA, and the record-setting backlash from fans of both Star Wars, who felt their beloved franchise had been ruined, and gamers, who felt robbed of both their money and their time, ensured the launch of this otherwise stellar game was marred with hatred and controversy.
So how did the game return slowly into the good graces of the gaming public? And how did the game end up with the positive reputation it has today? That answer lies with the dedicated developers of DICE, and their resolution to turn the game around.
EA has never publicly spoken on why the progression systems of Battlefront II ended up the way they did, but countless gaming journalists have looked into the matter, and they all came to the same conclusions. The developers at DICE had seen a chance to make the game of Star Wars fans’ dreams, a chance to feel like they were crafting their own Star Wars adventure in blaster fire and lightsaber strikes. The executives at EA however, had seen a chance to profit hugely off one of the biggest IPs of all time, no matter the cost to the game itself. This is why the game was released in its fragmented state, with the gameplay, visuals and modes being fantastic, and the progression being so slow and greedy. The catastrophe that occurred as a result of this fragmentation was big enough that control was finally given to the people that it should have been given to at the beginning – the developers.
Work began immediately on what would become one of the best Star Wars games to date. The Star Card system was completely overhauled, and the loot boxes removed. Players could now choose to invest in whatever Star Cards they wanted, be it Heroes, Starfighters, or Troopers. The price for each Star Card was dramatically reduced, and then taken away completely. Progression was then totally overhauled. The way Battlefront II works now, is that progression is tied directly to a character’s level. Basically if you use that character, you’ll unlock the ability to use more and more powerful Star Cards as you level up. The time it now takes to earn Star Cards and level up is a fraction of what it was. Free DLC from the 2019 Star Wars instalment The Rise Of Skywalker was also added, along with many, many new maps and modes. This was the start of a new dawn for Battlefront II, and the one still enjoyed by millions of players across the globe.
Star Wars: Battlefront II had an incredibly rough launch, but an incredibly successful future. Its redemption is now one compared to games such as No Man’s Sky. The success story it’s become is an example of when developers saw their game ruined by the money people and executives of a mammoth corporation, and then wrestled control back to right the ship. And at the peak of its new found popularity, EA announced that there were no new plans for a sequel to Star Wars: Battlefront II, and that all active development would cease. Battlefront II is a game still enjoyed by many, many people, but it’s a game in stasis, frozen in time.
I therefore propose two options for the continuation of the Battlefront franchise. Option one, a full blown sequel. There are many heroes and locations left unexplored by EA DICE, and these could be expanded upon, with the current already large roster of heroes, to make an entirely new Battlefront game. A chance to launch a game built on a functioning progression system, with new modes and new experiences for Star Wars fans to sink their teeth into. Granted, the rights would be much more expensive due to EA’s no longer existing exclusive licence, but the demand for a brand new Star Wars: Battlefront game has never been higher.
My other proposal is for a continuation for active development of Star Wars: Battlefront II. Battlefront II has an astronomically large player base by now, as it approaches its fifth year of sales. EA DICE could capitalise on this, and add all the things I’ve suggested above into its pre-existing game, and for a fraction of the development cost. One thing that would need to arrive as part of this new form of Battlefront II would be a Next-Gen upgrade. With a Next-Gen upgrade and a new wealth of content, Battlefront II’s popularity would surge. Even more stories would be told of the dedication and commitment of the developers at DICE, and better still, an opportunity to honour the expectations of fans around the world that waited nine long years for a flagship Star Wars title that never really arrived until very recently.
This is a chance for EA to make proud the fans that stood by their side as they repeatedly proved their undeservance of the Star Wars exclusive licence, and a chance for them to get people to remember the highs of the EA Star Wars days, rather than the lows. This is a chance to fully turn the corner on the disappointments of the Battlefront series, to restore the faiths of gamers around the world, and to continue a piece of Star Wars history for current generations of gamers to enjoy. The only tragedy of wisdom here would be if EA passed up this opportunity, in the face of development costs.
Come on EA, it’s time to put the fans firmly where they should be – first.
Star Wars Battlefront II is available to play on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. The Xbox Store will cover the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S bases. It’s currently on Game Pass too.