The Call of Duty franchise has dominated the online first person shooter market for the past few years - with good reason, too. Its multiplayer is easy to get into, fun, and offers quick-to-play matches. On the other hand, the Battlefield series on PC, as well as the Bad Company series on consoles, offers engaging and committed gameplay in which the player can be rewarded for playing a role, rather than being focused on maintaining a high kill/death ratio.
As a player of both CoD and Battlefield online multiplayer, it's safe to say that while we love Battlefield's emphasis on playing a role in the game, it's hard not to agree with Michael Pachter's assessment that Battlefield 3 will not be outselling the next Call of Duty, even though EA and DICE have designed it to do so.
Battlefield 2 matches force players to commit for long periods of time. The same can be said of a Bad Company multiplayer as well. Matches can last up to half an hour and might not be full of action all the time, depending on what role you play.
It's hard to imagine players who would want to commit to long matches in Battlefield 3, where the action won't be as constant as in a Call of Duty game. However, the fun factor in BF3 or BC2 emerges when a player can actually serve his team as a functioning member, fulfilling a relatively specific job rather than zooming off at the outset of a match and getting killed. Taking out enemy armor or air support is just as helpful and satisfying as going on a standard killstreak, although many gamers have started to associate getting consecutive kills in a game with success -- sometimes even more than scoring an actual victory in a match.
BF3 and its incredible marketing budget will do what the Bad Company games failed to do: start appealing to players who want to try out something that offers a different type of reward, a change of pace, and a more realistic experience than Call of Duty. The arcade values of the CoD games are certainly what leads to their huge success among hardcore gamers -- their gameplay is immediately rewarding and fast paced. Battlefield, though, is much more rewarding to players who want to be part of a team rather than just a gung-ho gamer. It's fun trying to keep my teammates alive with a defibrillator, throwing out med packs, and being useful. Battlefield isn't a franchise that is conducive to the kind of player who wants to be the one man who can win a match by player kills alone.
It is saddening to believe that BF3, as awesome as it does look (and will hopefully play), will not be outselling Call of Duty, even if Modern Warfare 3 ends up failing to offer many new features, as with the past few CoD games. That "coasting" mentality of giving gamers what has worked in the past can only last for so long, especially with so much competition in the FPS market. As time goes on, though, and more information about BF3 emerges, maybe there will be enough to pull gamers away from the safety of Call of Duty.
Homefront, a title whose multiplayer is an amalgamation of elements of both BF and CoD, does move in a direction that should appeal to fans of both franchises. As our Homefront review makes clear, the game is not perfect, but the Battle Point system it offers is ingenious, and takes pressure off of players who aren't as quick on the trigger as the rest of their team. Everyone has the ability to be the chopper gunner, even if it might take longer for some players than others. Homefront was willing to try something different and did a decent job of it.