One editor reflects on the reveals for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, and how comparisons between the two are largely expected from the publishers involved.
It’s started once again: the war of the war games. Truthfully, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with either Battlefield 1 or Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and to claim one is superior over the other in a written piece seems a rather predictable bid to capitalize on industry buzz rather than say something worth reading. Before progressing forward, I wanted to point that out, because the tactics at play here encourage such battle lines being drawn by consumers and comparative articles to be manufactured.
Relatively speaking, observations between Battlefield 1 and Infinite Warfare were bound to happen, as they’ve been reoccurring events for years now. The thing about this, however, is that it’s evident to me that Electronic Arts (and perhaps even Activision to some extent) want people to do so. It’s no coincidence that both games were unveiled within the same week, as the companies expected major comparisons to be made. In doing so, viral marketing for both games kicks into high gear, as a myriad of pieces and online chatrooms heralding one or the other as 2016’s definitive first-person shooter were bound to be a dime a dozen.
Truthfully, these two first-person shooters won’t be able to be accurately examined and assessed until their release dates, that much is undeniable. Instead, gamers will compare graphics (something that the Battlefield franchise has largely always had an edge on) and brief snippets of gameplay footage as self-assessed evidence that one is better than the other, and it’s already begun on the official YouTube videos for each of the trailers. The end result has seen Activision get slammed with an overwhelming number of ‘dislikes’ on its Infinite Warfare trailer, while Electronic Arts has received over a million ‘likes’ on its Battlefield 1 reveal footage.
People may claim that such vast disparities between the two are the result of quality over fandom, but that’s almost certainly not the case. Call of Duty has, for years, been viewed by many gamers as an annual shell of a franchise that solely exists to make more money, without taking time to reassess or innovate on its delivery. Activision has, by throwing multiple studios into the mix, allowed for ample development time on each iteration, so there’s no question that time and effort goes into delivering a familiar – albeit tweaked – experience in a brand new setting. Those that don’t like the futuristic environments, however, also have something a little more nostalgic to look forward to with 2016’s offering.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered could prove to be the defining factor in how Activision generates more revenue (and overall sales) off its latest CoD. Packaging the game as an exclusive for those willing to shell out more cash for it alongside Infinite Warfare‘s Legacy Edition ensures sales from longstanding fans of the series, and perhaps even those that had bowed out of picking up the latest installment every year. On the other hand, Battlefield 1 doesn’t have recognizability built up around its other franchise entries to draw nostalgia on par with a label as well-known as Modern Warfare. Instead, its success will be influenced by its own merits and saleability – more importantly, the resulting word of mouth through CoD-based comparisons.
The truth is simply that this isn’t a battle that Electronic Arts plans on winning at the marketplace in this round, or probably even the next one. In reality, Call of Duty is an industry juggernaut that has traditionally been able to be the best-selling game of recent years, and that’s unlikely to change. That’s not to say that the property hasn’t been losing its grip, however, which is something I’ve noted in the past in an article pertaining to Activision’s ignorance with franchise pacing. No, the obvious plan for EA is to instead have its product time and time again be mentioned within the same breath as the blockbuster Call of Duty.
This genre-based relevancy leads to comparison, which then gives consumers two concrete options when it comes time to surrender their hard-earned cash: Call of Duty or Battlefield? This is the ultimate success Electronic Arts needs, because by constantly being associated with the best-selling IP currently on the market, it carves out a niche (alongside its existing global appeal) that all of those fed up with the competition can then be funnelled into.
This rivalry goes beyond consumers, too, as is evident by the public ramblings of EA staff on social media pertaining to Infinite Warfare. As much as developers and fans alike build this sense of rivalry and borderline brand patriotism, the truth is that they need each other. Call of Duty will always be in the headlines as long as it remains relevant to consumers that read them, and Battlefield will never be too far away if CoD is present. The two build off one another to garner attention, clicks, views, likes, dislikes, and eventually sales. It’s truly the yin and yang of the gaming industry.
To reiterate a point I made earlier in this article, why else would Activision and Electronic Arts have grand unveilings in the same week? To avoid comparisons? That’s not likely.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare arrives for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 4, 2016. Meanwhile, Battlefield 1 arrives for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 21, 2016.