What Is Going On With Battlefield?

We take a look at the history of Battlefield and try to figure out what is going on with this promising franchise.

Posted By | On 10th, Oct. 2022

What Is Going On With Battlefield?

The games industry is a turbulent one, and the ever-changing interests of fans and popular trends mean that developers have to constantly keep shifting gears to stand a chance at survival in this industry. We have seen many franchises abruptly fall from their former glory for this very reason, and one such franchise that has recently fallen into this bracket is DICE’s Battlefield. What was once a flourishing first-person shooter with plenty of spectacle and fandom has now been reduced to a shadow of its former self, and most would agree that the last couple of entries have failed to hit the mark in some way or another. To that end, we can’t help but ask the question – what the hell happened to Battlefield?

As fans of the franchise would know, Battlefield started off on a very strong foot. Battlefield 1942 was released in 2002 and was an instant hit on both a critical and commercial scale. At the time, DICE was able to distinguish its military shooter offerings from the competition by focusing on a sense of scale and team-based gameplay. Where other first-person shooters restricted themselves to smaller-scale maps and game modes focused on individual performances, Battlefield 1942 introduced its signature Conquest mode which emphasized teamwork and strategy in large-scale maps. In addition to this, Battlefield also added classes into the mix – and depending on the chosen role, players would have to fulfill their responsibilities and act accordingly during the game.

Fun fact: DICE originally proposed Battlefield 1942 as a GameCube exclusive, but in the absence of proper online functionality on the console – the game was then built for the PC.

DICE would then go on to continually succeed with each passing entry in the franchise. Future installments like Battlefield 2: Modern Warfare also provided a much-needed change of scenery to a modern landscape, but the developer also paid due attention to polishing its signature large-scale gameplay while also introducing new modes into the mix. The series’ upward trajectory continued with Battlefield: Bad Company, which added set-pieces and a likable cast of characters in the single-player department which helped widen the target demographic for the franchise.

All of this set the perfect stage for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3, the former becoming the biggest hit in the franchise’s history up until that point (and arguably to date). It sported great single-player campaigns and adrenaline-pumping multiplayer with a wide variety of destructible maps and environments. This was also the time when EA’s own IPs were struggling to find their place in the rapidly changing shooter landscape, which eventually led to the closure of Danger Close games and by extension, the final nail in the coffin for that franchise.

But EA’s premium shooter had a tough future ahead of itself. While Battlefield 4 would go on to receive great critical and commercial acclaim, fans were not impressed by the single-player campaign and the game wasn’t technically stable with bugs and glitches galore. Post-launch patches and DLC did eventually turn the game’s fate around, but the franchise’s reputation had already taken a blow. It also didn’t help that Battlefield: Hardline didn’t get well with a decent chunk of the fanbase, despite featuring some interesting spins to this tried and tested formula.

The next entry in the series, Battlefield 1 then released in 2016 and shifted gears to a different setting. Battlefield 1 felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air amidst the barrage of modern shooters on the market, and it also helped that DICE crafted a well-designed multiplayer experience complete with iconic vehicles and weapons of the era. While the single-player campaigns were short, these self-contained War Stories were quality stuff regardless. Battlefield had once again risen from the ashes, but that victory was short-lived.

Battlefield 5 was released shortly after in 2018 and was subject to substantial criticisms from fans on account of its derivative gameplay and lack of meaningful content upon launch. Again, post-launch updates did manage to reinvigorate some interest in the franchise, but the general consensus surrounding the game was one of wasted potential and that’s something most people are likely to agree with.

Battlefield 2042

And this brings us to Battlefield 2042, the franchise’s biggest blunder to date. The game was highly anticipated by fans and was also the subject of a short delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the game was released, it was once again criticized on account of its forgettable multiplayer modes, balance issues, and inconsistent matchmaking alongside a general lack of polish with the experience. Since the game’s launch last year, EA has continually tried to recoup player numbers with post-launch updates, but it has repeatedly failed and the future of Battlefield 2042 looks really bleak at the moment.

So, when went wrong? We can see that modern shooters became all the rage during the Xbox 360 and the PS3 era which is when Battlefield was at its peak. Fan interest slowly disintegrated in the subgenre as time went by, and the lack of any real gameplay innovation didn’t do the game any favors. While Battlefield 1 was able to recoup some interest within the series, the tendency to make iterative upgrades over substantial changes put the franchise back in the slumps once again. Battlefield 2042 was released as an underwhelming and unfinished package during this crucial time, all of which have dealt a significant blow to the franchise’s reputation.

But I think that EA knows that maybe Battlefield has outstayed its welcome. Multiplatform publishers like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision know that any franchise has a limited lifespan – and they know that the best way to make the most out of it is to keep churning out games until it’s no longer profitable – and then move on to the next best thing. Franchises like Guitar Hero, Dead Space (although it’s now coming back in the form of a remake), and so many others have died similar deaths at the hands of these publishers. 

That said, a counterpoint to this argument could be that EA is still working on turning Battlefield 2042‘s fates around for good with plenty of post-launch updates, so it’s not giving up on the franchise just yet. But that could also just be the last of EA’s attempts at salvaging some life from this game, and judging by the current market scenario and the recent moves made by Battlefield’s competitors – it seems that the best course of action is to diverge the franchise into a premium and a free-to-play segment; just like how other shooters have done with its offerings. 

Spending upwards of $70 on a middling experience like Battlefield 2042 doesn’t make a lot of sense when games like Fortnite are offering mostly similar experiences without any price of admission. What EA eventually ends up doing with the Battlefield franchise remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – that some big changes are going to have to be done in order for the franchise to have a future.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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