Considering the uproar (opens in new tab) and bad press EA have received over Star Wars Battlefront 2 (opens in new tab) for its heavy reliance on loot boxes, many have wondered why the publisher didn't simply opt to push cosmetic items instead of a convoluted system involving cards, currencies, and crafting. The answer, according to CFO Blake Jorgensen, is so that the game would be true to what makes Star Wars... well, Star Wars.
Speaking (opens in new tab) at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Jorgensen said that things become complicated when working with another company's property. "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." That doesn't mean the way things are is set in stone, however.
"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 said. "There might be things that we can do cosmetically, and we’re working with Lucas[film] on that."
"The one thing we're very focused on and they are extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars. 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."
Jorgensen could have picked a better example. Some players clearly do want pink Darth Vader, because that is literally what someone modded into 2015's Star Wars Battlefront:
Now, to be fair to EA, Disney is known to be pretty picky about what people can and can't do with their intellectual properties. Compare Marvel Heroes to Injustice 2 (opens in new tab): whereas Injustice 2 lets players constantly equip and swap out pieces of gear that results in visual changes, Marvel Heroes kept avatars looking the same regardless of what items they had equipped. Yes one of these games is an action-RPG and the other is a fighter, but it highlights how restrictive Disney can be about how characters under its umbrella are portrayed.
That said, it's still fairly easy to poke holes in the "canon" argument. I'm not sure I recall the last time Star Wars heroes had to equip magical cards to grant them new abilities, and this is a game where characters who lived decades apart from one another can fight on planets they've never been to. Plus, we can see some amazing (and officially-licensed) twists on Star Wars visuals outside of games, even today. Have you seen the Bandai action figure that makes Darth Vader into a samurai? Because it is cool as hell:
We don't know what goes on in the board rooms where these agreements are signed or what restrictions developer DICE was given, and whether those directives were handed down by EA or Disney. But regardless, when your potential audience is so angry with you that there's talk of getting the government involved to regulate the game as a mechanism for gambling, trying to play the situation off and sum it up with "pink Vader" is not a good look.