Is EA going to shoot themselves in the foot? (A commentary of the forthcoming Battlefield 4 in EA’s business model)

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Bear with me as I give some background and context to my story. If you are in a rush and don’t want to read it all, skip down to below.

I was never a big FPS fan for many years. I played them, and spend many an hour on Halo and Medal of Honor back in the day, but they were not my game of choice at all. I enjoyed them quite a bit, but as the games started evolving into multiplayer madness, I didn’t come along with them for many a moon. They had too much competitiveness to them and a whole lot less teamwork. I despised deathmatches where it was every man for himself, and team deathmatches weren’t much better considering everybody ran around and did their own thing. Then the introduction to Battlefield 3 happened.

I never played a Battlefield game before. None of them. Scratch that, I played the Bad Company 2 demo for about 3 minutes. Not knowing what the game was like, I spawned in to what I now know is the map White Pass, saw that the action was all the way down this hill from me, I ran towards it, got shot and killed. Respawned, ran toward the…shot and killed. Respawned, tried to be sneaky and run down the side of the slope behind trees, made it about 75% of the way there, shot and killed. This was not fun. I turned it off. Back to my point though. I played the Battlefield 3 beta on PS3 a year ago and discovered something about that game. I loved it. Despite the flaws that are in the game, despite the harsh flaws of the beta, despite the fact that I overall suck at FPS games, I loved the game. The beta was a Rush game in Operation Metro. There was an objective, and it seemed like a decently real one (as opposed to say, King of the Hill or Capture the Flag), and you needed teamwork to attack or defend it. Period. I loved it. I loved it so much I played the game like crazy for months when it released.

My wife even saw it and thought it was cool so she started playing it. Honestly, she stole it from me and I really haven’t played it for a while now, only recently started playing it again heavily in the past 2 weeks. Instead, during this time of not having a game to play, I went back and played the 2010 Medal of Honor, Bad Company 2, and even Battlefield 1943 for good measure. This gave me a better perspective and understanding of the games, what they are, what they do well, and what they don’t do well (and lots of "don’t do wells" in that Medal of Honor reboot multiplayer). With that in mind, I had even more appreciation for Battlefield 3. The level of quality of design and implementation of the game is amazing. Period. We could talk about any or all of it. Maps, Vehicles, Weapons, Weapon accessories, Soldier Kits, the whole shebang is epic, with vast variation for any one of those things, yet they are so well balanced among themselves and even across each of those topics. Color me impressed.

So I have appreciation for the launch Battlefield 3. I have great appreciation for Back to Karkland. I bought into Premium and got Close Quarters which I also enjoy. There is a lot of criticism about the CQ expansion and I can understand (and agree with) some of the dislike of it and it being a lot less "Battlefield" and a lot more "COD", but in the big picture I can see the benefits of it and mixed in with the other game types is a refreshing change. I am also eagerly awaiting Armored Kill, even though I suck at every vehicle there is. Seriously, I suck at all the tanks and armored vehicles, it is pathetic. Don’t even get me in something that flies. I can barely fly a helicopter and pretty much can only do it to go from point A to point B. Don’t ask me to circle so gunners can take people out. Don’t ask me to go low to capture a flag in Conquest. And keep me away from any jet if you don’t want it crashing into the ground. Pretty much I am only good at Hummers and Jeeps. But given all of that, I am still excited for Armored Kill, because it will be a nice addition to the mix of Battlefield maps and game types.

Which brings me to my point….

If you skipped ahead from the top, Start Reading Here.

EA/DICE have done a great job supporting Battlefield 3. I have always heard that they do a good job, and read that they do a good job, and see that historically going back to older games, and really see it live with the current big game out there. And there is still more coming. This is all great. (Side note: if you don’t like some of the stuff EA is doing, such as "Premium" or being able to buy Kit Unlocks etc… save that for another post. Agree or disagree with it, they are functioning in today’s gaming market and are still supporting their game release very well. There is no doubt about that.)

So this is the issue. Battlefield 3 expansions will continue to roll out. Come October though, Medal of Honor Warfighter is hitting the shelves. I am okay with this as the flavor to MOH and BF3 is distinctly different. However looking at the MP it looks very much the same. Not totally the same, and again I think each one will have its own flavor, but similar enough that I don’t see a whole lot of differences. Will I get it? Sure. I have it on order already. That is fine. So what about support of Medal of Honor? I can only presume they will support it in the same manner as Battlefield 3, in quality, quantity, and business model. Great.

But the newly announced game is Battlefield 4. That was surprising to me as well as others. I expected a Bad Company 3 prior to a Battlefield 4. Not to mention another Medal of Honor (considering the MOH and BF brands are on rotating annual releases). By my schedule that is the difference of 4 years between releases of "Main" numbered Battlefield games, which makes a lot of sense since the difference between BF2 and BF3 was about 6 years. It could easily be more as well, but 4 years is respectable, and a far cry from 2. I have some speculations of why they are doing this (mostly due to next gen consoles) but I really don’t care why in the end, just that they are, because I don’t think it is a good move.

Even though I will get Medal of Honor, I expect to continue to play Battlefield 3 in the coming years. Well, except that now there will be too many FPS games within 3 years to support them all. Both support from the developer, and also from the customers. We simply cannot play all those games to the extent as I think they should be played in such a short time. I don’t know how many teams they have working on expansions as well, but they all have to have full plates as well. Top that with the fact that there will surly be server support issues. Even with BF3 EA removed tons of official server support when they allowed for rented servers. Only after complaints did they come back. So what about when there are 3 games out on the market? EA will definitely not support all of them at once. I have a feeling the life cycle of the games will drop dramatically and only stay lingering by devout fans who host servers. There will be just too many games to support and keep fresh.

The market is already saturated with the modern FPS game. The Modern Military Shooter is the new WWII shooter. Burnt out and dry. Are they fun? Yes they are. But soon I won’t care much about them, because they are all the same. Sure, BF will never be COD or vice versa so they aren't all the same in that fashion, but they seem like from a MP standpoint all the EA FPS games will be the same.

I think that producing a main sequel to the Battlefield series so early will cripple it. Maybe not quickly, and maybe not a fully fatal wound, but there will not be enough variation to the IPs released to warrant the current level of support on them, not to mention the current level of excitement from customers. The products we have now will falter, and the quality will drop. Do I know exactly what will happen? No. But I feel we will see a shift in the next few years that will mark where the FPS and Battlefield IP will stand pretty much for the rest of its life.