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The controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II's microtransactions and loot crates continues today, with one U.S. state and Belgium weighing in on the matter. Hawaii is saying "aloha" to the practices, as in "goodbye."
Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee spoke up on loot crate practices during a press conference this morning, referring to EA's behavior as "predatory."
This game is a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money. It's a trap.
Clever nod to Star Wars aside, those are some pretty strong words coming from Lee. He refers to the need to provide future protections for children who are playing these types of games and spending extra money on unknown quantities. Whether or not this is technically gambling has been the topic of debate for years now, and it sounds like that conversation is finally getting the attention of folks who will help make some actual decisions.
We learned earlier during this whole fiasco that Belgium's gaming commission was also looking into the loot crate system in Battlefront II and has now determined that there is cause for concern. The latest word is that they plan to bring the matter to the European Union in the hopes of taking action against these types of practices.
Despite all of the hubbub, you can't actually buy loot crates in Battlefront II right now. EA turned off the functionality hours before the game launched due to the immense amount of negative attention it was receiving. It also sounds like a not-too-happy phone call from Disney/Lucasfilm may have helped spur on that decision, as this is Star Wars we're talking about. It's one of the biggest IPs in the world with a huge movie launching next month so, yeah, this was really bad timing for bad PR in Disney's book.
While it's certainly interesting to see this conversation move forward, it's not like this is a new topic for fans of the industry. Loot boxes have been moving closer and closer to the model now seen in Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Battlefront II. These aren't the first games to utilize such systems, but they're certainly pushing the boundary of what is considered predatory business practices. In the case of Battlefront, and as Lee points out, the game is even marketed to kids.
The gross part of all of this, if you look back at the history, is that we've basically been groomed for this. Loot crates and microtransactions have taken baby steps toward their current state, being implemented in more and more games, in more and more extreme ways, so players stop seeing them as what they really are and start seeing them as just a normal part of everyday gaming. This is, obviously, the major issue Lee and Co. have with these types of systems.
It looks like this is going to finally be a sticking point, and we're definitely curious to see where the conversation goes next.