Fans of Star Wars Battlefront 2 are outraged by the game’s monetization strategies, and EA has already adjusted the game’s economy multiple times. So what is the community doing that has been so effective?
Maybe more importantly, what are they doing that’s undermining their own cause? Let’s take a look at the science of customer complaints when it comes to video games, so you can adjust your own strategy to learn how to complain effectively.
Lesson #1: The developer or publisher has information you don’t
Everything is tracked these days. That means that the creators of the game know how many copies have sold, they know how many people play the campaign and they are watching to see how many people play online. That weapon you hate? They likely know how many people are using it. Those loot crates you despise? They are paying very close attention to how many people pay for them.
I know I rag on EA sometimes (who doesn’t?) but I’m 100% behind them on this SWBFII stuff. I’ve been through it myself and I know how demotivating it is. The key is *look at the data, not the comments*— Ben Cousins (@BenjaminCousins) November 13, 2017
What you say isn’t important from a business perspective, the most important thing is what you do. So if you complain bitterly but then buy the game? The company likely doesn’t care about your forum posts. If you say you hate loot crates but pay for a few of them during that cool event with the neat outfits? The company has learned that your words don’t match your behavior. And it’s your behavior that makes or loses money.
It’s not a golden rule, but if it seems like a lot of people are complaining about something but it never changes? That’s good evidence that while people don’t like something, they’re still comfortable giving it money. And money is the most important thing, which brings us to ...
Lesson #2: The most powerful message comes from your wallet
Behavior is a more powerful message than words, as we learned above.
If you are really mad about something, don’t give it money. Don’t pre-order the game. Don’t buy the game at all. If you buy a game with a bad economy and ignore as much of the economy as you can while still playing, the company has put your name in the “this person will tolerate bad monetization” bucket.
This is the easiest and most effective way to fight back, because ultimately it’s a conversation about business. They want your money, and you can decide whether or not to give it to them. If they don’t get your money, they’re going to learn that adjusting something is important. If they get your money, they’re going to learn what you’ll tolerate.
Want to hurt a company in the worst way possible? Keep that $60 in your pocket. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Lesson #3: Don’t cross lines of basic human decency
Video games are, in a very general sense, meant to be fun. They’re an entertainment product. If one turns out to be bad, find one that you like. You never have the right to threaten someone’s life or attack them online just because you don’t like the direction a game has taken.
This sounds like common sense, but the number of messages I’ve seen or received on social media that try to justify literal death threats over monetization strategies is depressing. That behavior hurts developers, it makes players sound like whiny, aggressive babies and it gives everyone an excuse to look down on the entirety of the hobby.
So stop it. Make it clear that behavior isn’t welcome, and report it when you see it. Nothing makes your argument easier to dismiss than going way over the top when it comes to expressing your displeasure, and it’s incredibly easy to ignore your argument when it comes attached to messages of violence or hatred. You’ve just given away your most powerful weapon, which is your business as a player. At that point, the company can and will rightfully tell you to fuck off. No one needs or wants toxic players in their game.
Besides, a well-reasoned and argued email or forum message is going to be more effective due to community managers understanding that it takes time to write an actual message about a game. Threats are common in games, sadly, while respectful conversation is more rare, thus it carries a higher weight.
If you can’t tap into your human compassion to avoid death threats and harassment, just know that they undermine your argument completely. If you have to think selfishly to talk yourself out of doing it, that’s still better than taking part in harassment. Stop.
Lesson #4: Rage is kind of a compliment, and publishers know this
There was very little anger over the horrid economy of Need for Speed: Payback, and EA should be much more concerned by that fact than the ongoing campaign of outrage aimed at Battlefront 2.
Always remember that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. The fans looked at the new Need for Speed, shrugged and then moved on with their life. There wasn’t enough of an emotional connection for them to fight through the bad monetization strategy.
EA’s explanation of Battlefront 2’s economy became the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. That’s a huge accomplishment, and EA probably sees it as a sad kind of triumph.
The reason this issue is continuing to make headlines is that fans don’t want to let it go. They care about the franchise enough to vote against EA’s practices and they will show up to be heard on this topic. They wouldn’t do that unless they really wanted to buy the game, and that level of commitment and passion is as good as money in the bank for EA. The publisher is flailing a bit to try to get the economy back in line, but the fact remains that the Battlefront franchise has a huge number of fans who truly care about the game and want it to be good.
EA is very much aware that the amount of hatred and anger thrown its way by fans for this long means that it’s sitting on a big game that people desperately want to play. The company also knows that this level of anger from this many people means that the complaint is valid and could lead to fewer sales, which is why it’s taking the time and effort to adjust the economy.
It all comes down to sales, but if a backlash is this severe and is sustained for this long it’s good evidence that the brand behind the game is still strong and relevant. EA is engaging in this madness because at the heart of it are millions of players who either will or won’t give them money.