Nov. 20th update: The original story stated that EA CEO Andrew Wilson spoke with Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger on the phone. Iger was not part of this phone call and Wilson spoke to Disney executive Jimmy Pitaro instead. The article has been updated to reflect this.
EA has announced that it is temporarily removing all microtransactions from Star Wars Battlefront 2 following significant backlash against the game’s loot boxes. However, while some thought that EA’s decision was a direct response to the fan fury, it now seems that it was Disney who made the final call.
According to GamesBeat, EA CEO Andrew Wilson had a phone call with Walt Disney’s consumer products and interactive media chairman Jimmy Pitaro. Then, just hours after this phone call took place, Star Wars Battlefront 2‘s microtransactions were nixed. GamesBeat‘s report does not explicitly state that Pitaro told Wilson to drop the microtransactions from the game, but that is certainly the implication.
Over the past few days, the conversation about Star Wars Battlefront 2‘s loot boxes has grown considerably. Things got heated when fans saw the high price for unlocking heroes, which led to EA reducing the hero unlock costs. Then, EA reduced and limited the credit rewards system meaning that unlocking content would still take players thousands of hours (or thousands of dollars) to access all content.
The final straw on the camel’s back though may have been the revelation that Star Wars Battlefront 2‘s loot boxes are under investigation by the Belgian gambling authority. Belgium’s Gambling Commission has suggested that EA could be subject to thousands of dollars worth of fines, or an outright ban of the game could be on the cards.
The Gambling Commission also said that it is looking at the way that the game’s loot boxes could impact minors and encourage children to spend a lot of money. Some Star Wars fans are reportedly sharing messages on social media telling others not to let their children interact with Star Wars Battlefront 2 or the Star Wars brand for fear of getting their children into gambling.
EA is a license holder for the Star Wars brand and has been allowed by Disney to make games based on its universe, but EA also has a duty to uphold the values of the sci-fi franchise. It’s understandable that Disney would step in to ensure that its brand is protected and that EA is making business decisions that do not tarnish the Star Wars name.
The brouhaha with the microtransactions does seem to have damaged the Star Wars brand, at least on the video game side of things. But with Star Wars: The Last Jedi releasing in theaters next month, Disney wants to keep the narrative surrounding Star Wars positive. So while it has not been officially confirmed that Disney intervened here, it would certainly make a lot of sense.
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.