To Disney: EA Is Damaging the Star Wars Brand (Opinion)
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When I was a kid, like so many kids in the United States, I made a Christmas list. I took a look at all the toys and games, picked the best of the best to go on my list, and presented that list to my parents so that they and Santa would know exactly which gifts I desired most. And like so many kids who grew up in the 80’s, Star Wars videos games were often a part of that list. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Atari 2600), Star Wars: Jedi Arena (Atari 2600), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle (Atari 2600) all made my list at one point or another until they were mine. Over the years, the names of the games changed, and the style of the games changed, but one thing remained, there were always Star Wars games on my list. As I grew into an adult, Star Wars games grew up with me and began to tell stories that rivaled the movies themselves. In my opinion, it peaked when one of the greatest Star Wars stories that was ever told was told in a video game: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
My 10 year old son handed me his Christmas list the other day, and something occurred to me. There are no Star Wars games on his list. Come to think of it, there has never been a Star Wars game on his Christmas or birthday list his entire life. And why should there be? Star Wars games are no longer being made for 10 year olds. Star Wars games are only being made for people with credit cards, because without a credit card, you can’t pay for micro transactions. To make matters even worse, one of the greatest story telling franchises in the history of entertainment is no longer telling stories through video games because linear, storytelling, single player games don’t sell micro transactions (see the shutdown of Visceral Games and EA’s subsequent announcement using the words “games as a service”). In the video game world, Star Wars is no longer associated with great story telling or even great game play. Say the words “Star Wars” and “EA”, and the first words that come to mind are “micro transactions” and “money grabbing” to the tune of 100’s or even 1,000’s of dollars. Look at the newest Star Wars game, “Battlefront 2”. To unlock everything, you either have to spend thousands of dollars in micro transactions or thousands of hours playing the game, with the thousands of hours of game play being tedious grind designed to push you into spending that thousands of dollars to avoid it.
To be fair, Battlefront 2 isn’t for my 10 year old, but that’s part of the point. There are no Star Wars games for 10 year olds. But even if he was a 13 year old and fit the Teen rating, I could never let him play this game in the way it was designed to be played. I can’t afford to give him 1000’s of dollars to unlock everything, and I can’t allow him to play 1000’s of hours to unlock everything. That would be harmful to his very health. He’d have to ignore school, family, even the outside world to unlock everything in the game that was purchased. In fact, I’m pretty sure that would be harmful to the health of any individual, be it teenager or adult. The very console itself is likely to break down long before unlocking everything through game play at reasonable playing time amounts per day.
EA is not the kind of video game publisher with which Disney should be interested in doing business. Rather than enhancing the Star Wars brand, they are dragging it through the muck. They are damaging the Star Wars brand through the use of abusive business practices designed to take advantage of Star Wars fans rather than tell stories that enhance and expand the Star Wars universe. They are tempting people to pay large sums of money, possibly to the point of financial instability, and training them to partake in gambling like services to fully enjoy a game they have already purchased. If they don’t, they most likely will never unlock everything in the game they have purchased, as well as play with a disadvantage against players who do engage in these gambling like services.
Disney, are these the kinds of things with which you want the Star Wars brand to be associated? Is there no longer a place in Star Wars videos games for 10 year olds? Is there no longer a place for story telling in Star Wars video games? In this new golden age of Star Wars, where's the variety of Star Wars games for the console and PC that reaches all kinds of Star Wars fans?
EA is not the publisher you want in charge of Star Wars video games. They are doing far more harm to your brand and it's reputation than good.
Something needs to change.
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