Another day, another attempt from EA to defend its exploitative loot box system in Star Wars Battlefront II. This time, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen explained that the reason the company did not focus on cosmetic loot boxes was because of concerns over Star Wars canon.
“The one thing we’re very focused on and they are extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars,” Jorgensen said at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “It’s an amazing brand that’s been built over many, many years, and so if you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon, right? Darth Vader in white probably doesn’t make sense, versus in black. Not to mention you probably don’t want Darth Vader in pink. No offense to pink, but I don’t think that’s right in the canon.
“So, there might be things that we can do cosmetically, and we’re working with Lucas[film] on that. But coming into it, it wasn’t as easy as if we were building a game around our own IP where it didn’t really matter. It matters in Star Wars, because Star Wars fans want realism. But Star Wars fans may also want to tailor things — a different colored lightsaber, things like that. So you might see some of that.”
Jorgensen’s reasoning is… weak, to put it lightly. It’s certainly easy to argue that many, if not most, would prefer cosmetic over pay-to-win loot boxes regardless of canon, and Star Wars Battlefront already breaks canon in a number of places. Characters from across multiple eras meet on the same battlefield in-game, while some of these characters, like Rey and Darth Maul, wouldn’t even know of each other in canon.
There’s also a lot of ways that cosmetic loot boxes could work well within canon by providing variant outfits based on different scenes in the films. Chewbacca could be running around with C-3PO on his back just like in Empire. Even if that weren’t the route EA chose to go down, I don’t think a pink or white Darth Vader would have been make or break for most players. In fact, now that he’s mentioned it, people have expressed a desire to see Vader with color variants.
At the end of the day, EA still needs everything approved by Lucasfilm, which controls the Star Wars IP with an iron first. While Lucasfilm may not want to break canon in specific ways, it certainly seems like the preferred alternative from being compared to gambling. Disney is apparently the reason that microtransactions were pulled from the game to begin with because of their negative publicity.
Whatever system EA chooses to implement in the future, players will be watching closely.