Call of Duty comes out every single year and the reality of this has become a subject of parody for the industry as criticisms of franchise fatigue continue to grow. Despite a slight downturn in sales and lowered review scores in the latest COD installments, the series continues to be a top money maker for publisher Activision so competitor Electronic Arts has been attempting to emulate the model.
It began with Battlefield and Medal of Honor games alternating fall releases - both based in the modern military combat genre like the competition and both running on the same game engines. Outside of the branding, EA's model was the same as what Activision was doing, having developers Infinity Ward and Treyarch alternate years for Call of Duty releases. Unfortunately for EA, they didn't quite deliver with MoH and now that series is back in retirement. So, with MoH gone, is it surprising to see Battlefield: Hardline hitting retail just a year after the franchise's previous installment? Is BF now an annual thing?
Speaking with Polygon, EA Studios executive vice president Patrick SÃ¶derlund explains that just because Battlefield: Hardline is coming a year after Battlefield 4 and because BF4 is still being worked on, it doesn't mean the series is annualized a la Call of Duty.
"It doesn't necessarily mean that we need to annualize Battlefield and that's the way it's going to be forever and ever. I understand that some people may look at it that way but that's what happened... The EA that I'm trying to help build isn't an EA that needs to annualize everything."
Instead, Hardline is the result of letting EA developers make what they want to make. In this case, Visceral Games - the devs of the Dead Space franchise previously - wanted to make a cops vs. robbers themed shooter and it stemmed from a meeting three years ago between DICE boss Karl-Magnus Troedsson met with Visceral boss Steve Papoutsis. DICE has had an interest in making such a title for a decade and now Visceral - with the help of DICE - could make it happen.
"To the largest extent we can, we want to get the game teams to work on the things they want to work on themselves. There's an incredible amount of enthusiasm over Hardline and the Star Wars game at Visceral."
Visceral's Star Wars game remains unannounced but the project made major pre-E3 headlines when Uncharted director Amy Hennig joined the project. And just like Visceral has Battlefield: Hardline and Star Wars game in the works, so to does DICE with their current work on Battlefield 4, its coming DLC, and Star Wars: Battlefront which is expected to release next year, closer to the release of Star Wars: Episode VII in theaters.
It's because of DICE's obligations to BF4, Battlefront and Mirror's Edge 2 that SÃ¶derlund's words about the Battlefield series not being annualized are believable. There's simply no way Battlefield 5 or Bad Company 3 could come next year, especially if DICE is ramping up for the final stretch of Battlefront development. This is just a case of EA using the top-selling Battlefield brand to offer another sure-fire success in the wake of the Medal of Honor failures.
Then again, if Battlefront is as similar to BF4 as Hardline is, they they will effectively have annualized the product. We noted in our Battlefield: Hardline beta preview (watch us play the game here) that Visceral's game is extremely similar to BF4 from the two modes and one map the beta offers, so it needs to offer more new modes and an impressive single player campaign and other features to justify its full retail (plus obligatory expansions) existence.
And for those curious, a new Dead Space doesn't seem to be in active development but SÃ¶derlund believes the series isn't over. It'll depend on what Visceral wants to do and if they have an idea down the road. As for the schedule of Battlefield releases - what we're seeing isn't really new if you look back on the history of the franchise. BF2, Vietnam and 2142 all came a year apart.
Battlefield Hardline releases October 21, 2014 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
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