The inception and record-breaking domination of the modern military shooter is something that will be forever synonymous with the last generation of gaming. While sales appear to be tapering off for the genre’s biggest franchises, there are legitimate concerns now about that the genre’s long-term outlook on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Both Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 launched to cooler reviews than their respective predecessors and that hasn’t helped deter would could simply be consumer fatigue for the genre’s creeping problems.
Another practice that came into its own in the last generation was the annualization of non-sports games, led by the Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty franchises. EA attempted to do the same with modern day military games by releasing Medal of Honor titles in between Battlefields but that experiment that didn’t go well for the company, and since then their military outings has been resigned to every other year. Might they try again with their flagship military series?
Call of Duty goes hand in hand with yearly serialization. Swapping duties of the franchise between developers Treyarch and Infinity Ward, the series once prospered in this business model. During those years, many wondered if Electronic Arts would do the same to DICE’s Battlefield series, by bringing it into a dog fight with Activision’s flagship title every 52 weeks.
In a conference call transcribed by Seeking Alpha, EA’s chief finance officer Blake Jorgensen addressed this issue head on by discussion whether or not Battlefield will ever be an annual series. He explains that the only way to make it work would be to have another developer alternate on the series as it would just be too much for one studio. He continues by saying:
“Battlefield takes us about two years to develop and so you want to make sure that you’re sharing talent across studios, so you keep [the] core talent of the product and the experience for the consumer there. You also want to be really careful that you don’t destroy the franchise along the way. You got to make it exciting and different, but at the same time you want to make sure you maintain a great franchise.”
Annualised franchises have become the lament of many gamers in recent years. It can lead to an oversaturation of a product that eventually hurts an IP. Call of Duty at one point was one of the most lauded games going and now it is often seen being kicked around internet forums by gamers. Assassin’s Creed has been able to stay mildly fresh, despite not being able to have the time to implement some big features, and enjoyed great reviews this year, but that franchises’ concept leaves a lot of sway to change the setting and time zone. And even then, the franchise still comes under fire for its constant barrage of games.
In the call, Jorgensen does muse that not having Battlefield to fall back on every year can hurt the company as they have “dug a hole for next year”. Without the franchise there, what is there to replace it? Some fans might hope for the return of the Bad Company sub-series to fill that gap, but all sources indicate that that won’t be happening any time soon.
The thing is, even with a two-year dev cycle for the numbered Battlefield tiles, some critics and fans may argue even that was rushed considering the lackluster feature set in Battlefield 4 which dropped any form of co-op, doesn’t have bots and features a rather short single player story campaign combined with a slight lack of polish which saw review scores for it drop below its predecessor. We could argue that annualizing the series would only make the problem and hinder innovation.
While the modern military shooter may be on the wane – and that’s even debatable considering the huge sales numbers BF and COD still command - it seems that sci-fi action is stepping up to replace it, just like modern shooters replaced WWII games during the last console lifecycle. EA has Star Wars: Battlefront in development and Titanfall on the horizon. With high hopes for both, perhaps EA will resort to alternating on of those titles yearly with Battlefield.
Adding to EA’s library, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, UFC, the regular slew of yearly sports titles and Dragon Age: Inquisition are coming out in 2014 and that is only the titles they have announced so far. At least for the next year EA seem set, so fans probably shouldn’t expect another Battlefield next fall.
Should EA slow down instead of speed up Battlefield production or are you game for new titles every year?