Need for Speed Heat will not feature loot boxes of any kind, marking a positive departure from EA’s recent trend of aggressively monetizing nearly all of its games. Need for Speed Heat has a lot of ground to make up after the dismal failure of 2017’s Need for Speed Payback, which was roundly criticized for its predatory microtransactions and loot boxes (called Speed Cards). Payback, despite its strong core driving gameplay, was ultimately derided as an excruciating slog of grinding and mobile-style progression, complete with ghastly pay-to-win mechanics.
Following the disappointing critical and commercial performance of Need for Speed Payback, the future of the franchise seemed unclear until the surprise announcement of Need for Speed Heat, a brand new title in the series, due out on November 8, 2019. Heat is set in the fictional Palm City, a sun-bathed paradise of fast cars, skimpy clothes, and angry cops who hate street racers.
As a franchise, Need for Speed is in a dangerous position. In the wake of Payback‘s underwhelming reception, there’s a lot riding on the new title to restore the long-running series to its former glory. To that end, EA has made one thing clear: there will be no loot boxes in Need for Speed Heat. As reported by VG24/7, EA Community Manager Ben Walke confirmed that Heat will not contain loot boxes or any sort of “surprise mechanics.” Walke’s use of the phrase “surprise mechanics” is of particular interest, since it was first uttered by EA executive Kerry Hopkins as a tepid defense of the gaming corporation’s ubiquitous use of loot box microtransactions. The phrase instantly became infamous and memetic and has been widely mocked across the internet.
With loot boxes gone from the new Need for Speed, is it possible that Electronic Arts has learned their lesson? Over the past few years, nearly every big-name EA game has leaned heavily on MTX, almost always earning the ire of players across the world. From Star Wars Battlefront II to Need for Speed Payback and FIFA‘s Ultimate Team mode, recurrent user spending has been a running theme, much to the displeasure of players who paid $60 expecting a complete game. Battlefront II and Payback were so controversial, in fact, that both games overhauled their progression systems in an attempt to fix what had been broken by greedy monetization. While Star Wars Battlefront II was able to gain back some lost ground and become a more user-friendly experience, Payback‘s progression system was so intricately tied to loot boxes, it could not truly be fixed, only hastily patched over.
The two biggest games coming from EA in 2019, Need for Speed Heat and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, are both using “lack of loot boxes” as bullet points of their marketing. If they are critical and commercial hits, perhaps EA may rethink its strategy moving forward. Fans can only hope that they will realize that their short-term profits are less valuable than a loyal fanbase.
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