Opinion

EA Still Doesn’t Understand What Players Want From Battlefield

Why does the publisher keep missing the armed speedboat on this?

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson shared another update on what’s next for the Battlefield franchise this week, revealing that the upcoming entry will have the biggest ensemble of developers ever gathered for the series.

“This is the largest Battlefield team in franchise history,” Wilson said during EA’s Q4 2024 earnings call on Tuesday. “I’ve just spent a whole bunch of time with the collective Battlefield team playing what they’re building and it is going to be another tremendous live service.”

He said that the teams involved have taken fan sentiment into account following the troubled launch of 2021’s Battlefield 2042.

The Battlefield franchise has been in a rut as of late. After the dizzying highs of 2016’s Battlefield 1, the two subsequent entries have fallen short of expectations due to half-baked, buggy launches, and controversial and needless changes to the multiplayer the series is known for.

Considering the franchise’s recent track record, the next Battlefield game needs to be great. Unfortunately, Wilson’s latest update doesn’t fill me with confidence.

“Our teams have listened to the community, have learned valuable lessons, and are driving to the future,” Wilson said during the call. “Motive, armed with cutting-edge Frostbite technology and compelling storytelling, is joining DICE, Criterion, and Ripple Effect to build a Battlefield universe across connected multiplayer and single-player experiences.”

Shortly after Battlefield 2042 hit its stride, EA and DICE announced in April that they’d no longer support the game with future updates.

Electronic Arts

Wilson’s update comes just four weeks after EA announced that support for Battlefield 2042 is ending, and that Motive, the Montreal-based team behind Star Wars Squadrons and 2023’s Dead Space remake, was joining the super team working on the next entry.

When I think of Battlefield, I don’t think of meta-connected single-player and multiplayer experiences or “compelling storytelling.” I don’t think of a live service experience designed around keeping players engaged with daily challenges or skins to purchase and collect.

Battlefield has always been about emergent multiplayer gameplay, not “connected multiplayer and single-player experiences.”

Electronic Arts

What I do think of is the chaotic emergent gameplay and moments that few other games can replicate. Although the series hasn’t leaned into the destructible environments that the series was once known for since 2014’s Battlefield 4, I still think of huge maps that transform in meaningful ways throughout a multiplayer session thanks to the destructive firepower and vehicles of two opposing teams.

For some reason, EA keeps missing the armed speedboat on this. Stepping further and further away from the elements that made these games fun is why the franchise isn’t retaining players the same way Call of Duty or Fortnite is. The repeated failure to recognize this is why games like the endlessly playable BattleBit: Remastered and the destruction-focused competitive FPS The Finals have since swooped in and cannibalized their audience.

It’s not to say that the Battlefield franchise can’t fit within the mold of the live service model. Games like Halo Infinite and the more recent Helldivers 2 prove that making a well-executed, balanced multiplayer game with live service elements can result in success.

Battlefield 1 was the last game in the series that seemed to understand the assignment.

Electronic Arts

But if EA wants to stir up interest in Battlefield again, it should tell the community about how developers are nailing the basics of the series tried and true squad-based dynamics. Tell us the team won’t repeat the mistake of ditching the class system for a Rainbox Six: Siege and Overwatch 2-style hero system like Battlefield 2042 did. Most importantly, reassure players that the game, unlike its predecessors, will actually work at launch.

Addressing these basic concerns would mean way more to fans than telling us how many people are working on a sequel. Knowing that the game will receive post-launch support from a large team that’s serious about keeping it alive for longer than it takes to fix players’ frustrations is cool. But it’s not what anyone cares about, especially when players are beginning to reject the live service models that many publishers are still obsessed with.

To be clear, this is not a condemnation of the talent involved. From DICE to Motive Studios, all of the developers involved are spectacularly talented. Under the right circumstances, I firmly believe these teams can bring back the glory days of the Battlefield franchise. But if EA wants the next game to be the runaway success they’ve been chasing for a decade, doing a better job fundamentally understanding their audience would be a great way to restore fan confidence.

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