Rumor: With Super Mario Odyssey Outselling Battlefront II, Disney May Look For New Developers To Handle Star Wars Games
Hoo, boy, Star Wars Battlefront II. The sequel was looking to right the course for Electronic Arts with their handle on the Star Wars brand after the first Battlefront launched with a minimal amount of content in the base game, but sadly enough, the product was ultimately damaged by plans to feature aggressive microtransactions against the wishes of the developers, resulting in sales falling significantly short of expectations. It’s recently come to light that Super Mario Odyssey has outsold it – and rumor has it that Disney is less than happy about EA’s handling of their franchise.
The initial report comes from Eurogamer’s Tom Phillips, who observed that as of the end of last month, Super Mario Odyssey is well ahead of Star Wars Battlefront II in terms of overall sales:
Here’s a thing – Mario Odyssey has sold more copies on Switch than Star Wars Battlefront 2 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One combined. https://t.co/QA4Kk6wqKL
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsEG) January 31, 2018
Now, on to the good stuff…
Why Super Mario Trouncing Battlefront Is A Big Deal
Let’s just put things into perspective: Battlefront II was released across the PS4, Xbox One, and PC platforms. Super Mario Odyssey outsold Battlefront II on only one platform: the Nintendo Switch. Sure, Nintendo’s first-party exclusives tend to sell incredibly well since that’s basically the reason you’d buy a Nintendo console in the first place, but still – this reflects rather poorly on Star Wars Battlefront II. A big takeaway here, and one that goes against EA’s general direction as a company, is that single-player titles are far from dead. To say that they have egg on their face after cancelling Visceral’s intended single-player game to rework it into a multiplayer thing is likely a massive understatement.
EA has had the Star Wars license for nearly five years now and they only have two games to show for it, with no word on any future projects in spite of a massive number of resources available for the company to make games with. Nobody knows when or if the project that killed Visceral Games is going to come out, but at this point it can be argued that more should have been done for such a popular IP like this. Let’s take a quick look at why things are in a messy position right now before getting into the most important part of this article.
Battlefront II, As DICE’s Game, Wasn’t The Problem
Rest assured that EA is the company to blame here; DICE, who actually developed the title, did good course-correction for the Battlefront brand with the sequel as they made the follow-up. The three biggest complaints about the original game were as follows:
- There was no representation for the Prequel Trilogy or Sequel Trilogy Eras.
- The game had a lack of content at launch, and a lot of stuff was hidden behind a post-launch DLC paywall.
- There was not a single-player campaign.
So their immediate solution was to make a sequel that addressed all of these problems. Firstly, the game would put emphasis on featuring stuff from every era up front, with a handful of maps for each specific time period (even if the overall content would skew toward the Original Trilogy, which already had assets made for it from the first game). Secondly, the new game would not only feature triple the amount of content that the first game had at launch, but all DLC developed for the title would be released for free and for all players. Thirdly and finally, the game would get a single-player campaign with a story tied to the new movies. Gameplay was further refined to what fans had in mind, and DICE had everything ready for a crowd-pleasing sequel.
So what went wrong?
The Ludicrous Amount Of Microtransactions Damaged Battlefront II – And EA’s Brand
If you’ve been following the games industry for a while, there are a number of AAA publishers that have questionable reputations with gamers for certain business practices, but perhaps none have it worse than Electronic Arts – and perhaps deservingly. However, EA is also a massively-successful company, and one with tons of resources to develop multiple titles at once, so it initially seemed like it would be perfect to help re-establish Star Wars as the cash cow in the Disney era, even if this was to the displeasure of fans who were still reeling from Lucasfilm pulling the plug on LucasArts. While a list of abuses and general grievances could cover articles by themselves, let’s just focus on how decisions from on high screwed Battlefront II. Or rather, one in particular: the forced integration of loot crates and the addition of microtransactions to purchase them or in-game credits.
Gameplay for Battlefront II, like its predecessor, was based around players gaining in-game experience to gain access to better weapons and skills – something fairly normal for modern competitive FPS games. Unlike the first game, EA encouraged the developers to include microtransactions – small purchases with real-world currency to benefit players with in-game items. On their own, if implemented correctly for things like cosmetic features, players won’t have significant problems with these aside from the occasional bit of inevitable internet grumbling. But the problem with Battlefront II‘s microtransactions is that they were all but necessary to actually progress in the game – unless, of course, you were willing to spend literally thousands of hours trying to grind for the necessary components to unlock everything the old-fashioned way. If you didn’t fork over any extra money, you’d have to deal with players who had unfair advantages over you because they shelled out enough money to get the best weapons and hero units.
Suffice to say, consumers were rather cross with EA once it became clear that this was part of their game plan with the October beta, and the backlash against this practice was so controversial that EA’s stocks dropped by billions of dollars in value, even if the company later recuperated some of these losses. Fans called upon one another to boycott the game or at least the microtransactions until they were outright pulled, and it got so bad that Disney put their foot down and told EA to pull the plug on them altogether, which the company did by the time the game actually launched. But at this point, the damage had been done – Star Wars Battlefront II underperformed to sales expectations and any goodwill they might have gained from DICE’s changes to the sequel has been squandered.
While the game is no flop, it has been stated that it’s currently sold 1 million copies less than what EA was hoping for at this point in time, and this is still well below what it’s predecessor sold. So now EA is back at Square One with the Battlefront franchise because they got greedy, and they arguably put themselves in a worse position than earlier due to the dissolution of Visceral Games and the cancellation of their single-player title in favor of reworking it into something different under another studio, leaving 2018 without a new Star Wars game. And if the rumors are true, then these two major setbacks may have cost them full control over the Star Wars license.
Rumor: Disney May Be Rethinking Their Contract With EA
Based on the testimony of Cinelinx writer Jordan Maison, Lucasfilm is seriously rethinking letting EA have the only keys to the kingdom after they have relatively little to show for their efforts. Whether or not Disney is going to sever ties with EA isn’t clear at this point (and I’d doubt it, considering that they’ll probably want to do at least one more Battlefront and whatever games are already in development), the rumor is that they’re looking at two other developers to work on future Star Wars games: Activision and Ubisoft. Both developers are similarly massive in terms of resources, and while both have controversies of their own with their player bases, both have significantly better reputations than EA.
Even still, Lucasfilm currently has a contract with EA that should last until at least 2023; how that would be affected is unclear at this time, though Maison notes that there’s apparently a clause that would allow Lucasfilm to “alter the deal” and either split the license between multiple companies or take it away from EA altogether. Furthermore, Lucasfilm is still in touch with EA, apparently holding meetings with the game company’s executives to figure out how they can prevent having yet another fiasco that might leave players irritated. The article itself states that right now, it seems like this is being used as a negotiation tactic to motivate EA to stop making the same mistakes over and over, as these talks with Activision and Ubisoft are just that: talks. But still – expect Disney to apply pressure to EA in order to get the most out of their games going forward; they can’t afford for EA’s next Star Wars title to be mired in controversy.
Grant has been a fan of Star Wars for as long as he can remember, having seen every movie on the big screen. When he’s not hard at work with his college studies, he keeps himself busy by reporting on all kinds of Star Wars news for SWNN and general movie news on the sister site, Movie News Net. He served as a frequent commentator on SWNN’s The Resistance Broadcast.