I’m a firm believer in rewarding great achievements, and I believe that this should apply to both sides of the scale. Whether it’s because you did something really great or if you did something really crappy–an achievement is an achievement. That’s why when I found out today that video game company Electronic Arts (EA) got the Guinness World Record for the most downvoted comment on Reddit, I thought to myself, yes, that’s well-deserved recognition for being really dodgy.
Now, you all probably remember what this is related to. Yes, this was deep in the Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco and was probably one of the crappiest things to feel as a gamer. But, if you’re not, here’s a brief rundown.
In 2017, EA was not having a good time. The highly anticipated video game Star Wars Battlefront II was about to drop and the people were up in arms because of one of the lousiest things to experience in a video game: lootboxes and microtrasactions. This slides in just below your useless teammates who have been autofilled in your promotional series.
Yes, lootboxes and microtransactions aren’t new. You see them most often in free-to-play games where the developer gives the player a chance to pay a little money to have an easier time. Stuff like free-to-play MMORPGs are notorious for this because that’s how the company earns its money. There are also microtransactions in competitive video games like League of Legends, where you can pay to unlock cosmetics for your characters that help them look cool without actually impacting your power level in the game. This is so you can’t pay-to-win in a competitive video game.
But it’s also not entirely foreign in pay-to-play games to have some form of microtransaction too. Blizzard’s Overwatch is one example where you will have to buy the game first in order to play it, but you can also make microtransactions and buy lootboxes to get various cosmetics for your in-game characters. Again, they don’t affect the power level of your character, so buying these things are purely for aesthetics.
What went wrong with EA and Star Wars Battlefront II is the fact that they combined these two aspects in the worst way possible. Not only did you have to pay full price for the triple-A title, but you also had to participate in microtransactions and lootboxes if you wanted to unlock powerful heroes to play in-game–heroes that gave you more than just cosmetics.
One important aspect with lootboxes and microtransactions was to give players a way to earn them for free through in-game play time. Things like free lootboxes if you logged in and played at least one game every day were important in keeping the player hooked on the experience. And Battlefront II had that…only it was absolutely awful. It could, for example, take players upwards of 40 hours just to unlock iconic characters like Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.
Naturally, this was a bit of a shitshow and it spawned a thread on social news aggregator website Reddit where a player expressed their frustration over paying full price for a triple-A video game only to have the game’s most iconic character–Darth Vader–locked behind a wall of microtransactions.
But, that wasn’t even the nail in the coffin that earned EA this Guinness World Record. What did was when an unknown community manager used EA’s official Community Team Reddit account to make this post:
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.u/EACommunityTeam
Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.
A truly corporate, insincere, PR bullshit answer that basically tipped everything over the edge. And then the downvotes started rolling in. By the time the dust settled, the post had over 680,000 downvotes, and has been immortalised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most downvoted comment on Reddit.
Since this fiasco, EA has changed the way the game’s progression system worked due to the immense backlash from the community, so I guess the internet won that day. But, I think it’s still a little too early to tell whether this will permanently change the way EA does business beyond a couple of memes surrounding lootboxes. After all, when you solve one problem, two more often rear their ugly heads.
I was recently part of another EA crapfest called Anthem. It was an incredibly exciting video game that had a lot of promise but ultimately failed to deliver. But I did learn a lesson from that, and that lesson is: Never pre-order anything…
…unless it’s Remedy’s Control because that game is freakin’ awesome.