New York (CNN Business)The multibillion dollar “Star Wars” franchise is getting a new video game that takes players to the skies. Inspired by the ’90s Star Wars flight games, “Star Wars: Squadrons” came out Friday, and its main draw is letting fans pilot their own spaceships, zooming past debris and space rocks to fire down enemy targets.
Electronic Arts’ Motive Studios made the game, which was licensed by Disney. And compared with some of EA’s other popular titles, like the “FIFA” franchise, “Squadrons” is a relatively small game — it doesn’t come with a bunch of extra features, nor does it encourage users to make additional software purchases. It’s also priced lower, at $40 compared with $60 to $70 for typical EA games.
“Squadrons” focuses on the pilot fantasy element of the “Star Wars” franchise for the bulk of its game, which takes place after the events of “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” CNN Business got to try it out. In the game’s main campaign, you alternate between helping the Empire and the opposing side, the New Republic. You take missions like protecting refugees and finding missing scouts.
Each starfighter you pilot has lasers and shields, and you can also aim missiles at your targets. The controls involve spinning your starfighter rapidly in outer space, weaving and dodging incoming attacks.
The game also has a multiplayer mode including dogfights and fleet battles, and it supports virtual reality for a more immersive experience. It’s available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Console and PC players can game together.
Instead of asking players to buy cosmetic upgrades with dollars, “Squadrons” gives you an in-game currency called Glory when you play the game longer and complete challenges.
This monetization approach is far different from EA’s 2017 “Star Wars Battlefront II,” which included in-game purchases totaling hundreds of dollars to unlock more content.
EA caught flak in 2017 for that game as Belgium regulators looked at whether the title’s loot boxes constituted gambling. In 2018, Belgium banned loot boxes from games.
In a July earnings call, EA chief financial and operating officer Blake Jorgensen said that the “Squadrons” title “doesn’t have the breadth of some of our other games… that’s why we chose to price it at a slightly lower level to also allow access to as many people as possible who had that Star Wars fantasy.”
CEO Andrew Wilson said that they considered players’ expectations and “$40 felt like the right price point.”
Yung Kim, senior research analyst for securities firm Piper Sandler, told CNN Business he believes the lower price reflects how much time and money EA invested in the game. For instance, the story campaign in the game is shorter than last year’s “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” as that title placed greater emphasis on narrative.
“The price point and dearth of features, including a lack of loot boxes and so on, is a reflection that the game itself is not as deep as some others,” he said. “I don’t believe EA has changed its strategy overall or taken the prior issues into account.”
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