As one of Electronic Arts’ best selling franchises, any game in the Battlefield series is going to have high expectations attached to it. The latest to have said hopes pinned to their lapel before going into battle was Battlefield 4 which ended up resulting in disappointing a fair few Battlefield fans (and shareholders).
That’s down to bugs involving such things as Rubber Banding and the Death Shield which has prevented Battlefield 4’s multiplayer gameplay from going quite as smoothly as EA and developer DICE would have hoped. So deep rooted are the game’s issues (many of which have plagued the first person shooter since its launch) that EA’s investors even filed several lawsuits against the company on the grounds that they were misled. The game was launched before it was ready, and EA made the situation worse by selling DLC and adding microtransactions before the game was in a “complete” state.
It was, and still is, a major problem for the series after Battlefield 3 launched with similar issues. And it’s worsened by the fact that they’re already annualizing the series with Battlefield Hardline being unveiled for this fall just as BF4 gets to a point where it should have been at launch.
Is offering “early access” in future Battlefield iterations the way to go about eradicating these detrimental bugs and glitches that so many so many Battlefield 4 players have complained about? At first glance, we’d scream “no” since it immediately forebodes a worrisome way to excuse rushed and incomplete releases (which are already happening) while still charging top dollar, but that may not necessarily be the case – at least yet. DICE certainly seems to think it’s a good plan with company’s boss – DICE CEO and General Manager Karl Magnus Troedsson – offering his views on the subject while speaking to Game Informer.
“We have nothing to announce, but we are having discussions when it comes to [early access]. It comes not from a business perspective, but more from a perspective of if it would help us have a stable launch of the game.”
Issues are already presenting themselves with this model, particularly in the light of Steam’s Early Access program recently finding itself under pressure as to what makes it out onto the service. Steam’s program allows developers to test out features and concepts of partly finished games – games that they sell on Steam – that don’t always have a set release date. They can make promises, charge for Steam early access, and never finish the game.
For DICE and EA, who have annualized the series, they arguably can’t take full advantage of that sort of system since their rushed schedule doesn’t allow for many months of bug-fixing, especially while continuously adding in new features and content via DLC. Fortunately, at this point it seems the plan for EA is to use this system for quality assurance purposes as opposed to business reasons. Troedsson did look to alleviate concerns of just what the early access testing would be used for in Battlefield, as there’s a difference in developers using early access to recoup funds to complete the game’s development and the paid-for testing center that DICE seems to be aiming for.
“We would ask our players in a controlled way. We probably wouldn’t open the floodgates for everyone, but we might do it for geographical territories or people who bought the last game. Yes, it is something we are considering, not from a business standpoint, but from one of creating quality in our products.”
There are obvious doubts because of DICE’s recent track record on the annualized Battlefield series. Both Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 have both drawn a great deal of ire, so with the stakes and the revenue expectations so high and EA not wanting to let up when it comes to annual iterations of Battlefield games, some are asking where the middle ground will come from.
Early access appears to be something that DICE and EA have their hearts set on but it doesn’t appear to be a fix for the franchise and could only see the salt cause more pain to more wounds. By releasing Battlefield games under the guise of early access, the future games would be released even sooner, leaving less time for the previous title to be fixed and leaving more gamers in the lurch as they have to essentially make a risky bet with their money with the hopes that DICE’s next effort could be better.
What would perhaps be a far better alternative is simply giving the Battlefield games more time in the oven. If early access is required for Battlefield games to have a stable launch, then there’s a bigger problem at play.
Battlefield Hardline releases October 21, 2014 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Source: Game Informer