The situation surrounding EA's loot box controversy in Star Wars Battlefront II has been nothing short of a dumpster fire. The controversy stemmed from the excess time investment required to earn a steady drip-feed of credits used to buy loot crates and heroes – a system that could, of course, be bypassed by simply spending real money on a special currency to buy loot boxes. This ultimately caused enough backlash to cause EA to pull microtransactions from the game altogether at launch.
Theoretically, much of the backlash could have been avoided by sticking with purely cosmetic items in loot boxes, much like games like Overwatch and League of Legends. However, according to an interview with EA chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen (via Polygon), EA specifically avoided cosmetic items so as to not violate the Star Wars canon. Speaking at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Jorgensen said:
The one thing we're very focused on and they are extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars. It's an amazing brand that's been built over many, many years, and so if you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon, right? 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 offense to pink, but I don't think that's right in the canon.
So, there might be things that we can do cosmetically, and we're working with Lucas[film] on that. But coming into it, it wasn't as easy as if we were building a game around our own IP where it didn't really matter. It matters in Star Wars, because Star Wars fans want realism. But Star Wars fans may also want to tailor things — a different colored lightsaber, things like that. So you might see some of that.
As Polygon notes, the decision to avoid cosmetic items due to concerns over Star Wars canon is undercut somewhat by the canon-breaking situations presented by pitting Star Wars characters from different eras against one another in the game's multiplayer. Ultimately, EA likely has to stick with strict guidelines about how to handle characters, passed down from Lucasfilm. And I think we can all agree that having a pink Darth Vader running around, while humorous, could clash with Lucasfilm's view of the character.
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