It’s that time of year where the corral of gaming heavy hitters release oft-soporific statistics amid lengthy earning calls to prove their commercial solvency to boards and investors. On cue, EA delivered an optimistic take at the end of last month, covering all its popular intellectual properties including Apex Legends, FIFA, and The Sims, but with one blaring omission – Battlefield V.
While other franchises were the topic of in-depth discussion with coverage of sales figures, prospective growth, and plans for future content, EA senior management trio only mentioned Battlefield V in passing:
“We create experiences in some of the most popular owned IP in the industry, including The Sims, Battlefield, Need for Speed and Plants vs. Zombies,” the firm said. “We’ve had great success building deeply engaged long-term communities in Ultimate Team, The Sims, Battlefield, Star Wars and more.”
That’s it. There are no other mentions of Battlefield V in what amounted to a 14-page document once transcripted.
For the latest entry in a tentpole franchise released less than 12 months ago, the omission is nothing short of a snub, and it says a great deal about Battlefield V’s lack of success and how little faith EA has in reversing that glaring failure moving forward.
In The News For All The Wrong Reasons
Battlefield V got off to a lousy start amid a pseudo-controversy surrounding the portrayal of women during World War 2.
A tranche of onlookers felt that Battlefield V was taking too many historical liberties, while those on the other side accused critics of misogyny.
The unwelcome saga prompted EA CCO Patrick Söderlund (who has since left the company, further raising alarms) to say:
“Listen: this is a game. And today gaming is gender-diverse like it hasn’t been before. There are a lot of female people who want to play and male players who want to play as a badass. And we don’t take any flak. We stand up for the cause, because I think those people who don’t understand it, well, you have two choices: either accept it or don’t buy the game.”
In hindsight, however right Söderlund may have been to promote gender diversity in games, his scathing words did little to quell perceptions of a botched announcement. Instead of disregarding bigoted opinions from a subsection of its fan base, EA gave them precisely what they wanted – a reaction and one that explicitly asked them not to buy the game.
Battlefield V’s Underwhelming Launch
Battlefield V’s release was similarly disastrous, with the game initially scheduled to release in October 2018 alongside serious competition from Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Red Dead Redemption 2.
EA pushed the release back to allow developer DICE time to improve the core gameplay experience, further entrenching it in the competitive release window.
Early sales figures were well below expectations, and reviews were equally underwhelming, citing a strong core but little depth, especially the multiplayer modes. A lack of content, rampant bugs, and few improvements on the excellent Battlefield 1 left players underwhelmed by the rough-around-the-edges gameplay of Battlefield V, not to speak of money-fleecing weapon and character customization features that had EA’s greed stamped all over them.
Ongoing outrage at EA’s lack of consumer-friendly policies and the stagnant aftermath of the Battlefront 2 micro-transactions storm also led droves of franchise regulars not to purchase the game in protest.
By the close of the year, EA had sold 7.3 million copies of Battlefield V – a million less than expected.
The Slippery Slope of Failure
By January retailers began slapping substantial discounts of up to 50 percent on Battlefield V in reaction to weak sales figures.
Despite EA marketing Battlefield V as a title with a long shelf life, successive delays to the releases of the episodic Tides of War and the Firestorm battle royale modes did little to keep players interested.
When Firestorm finally saw the light of day, EA’s other battle royale shooter Apex Legends overshadowed it amid an already-saturated genre. The lack of player pick up meant EA decided to retire the duos mode in May.
Although EA continues to pump out content, Battlefield V’s failure is all but confirmed. Dwindling player numbers prove the game’s legacy will be as a catastrophic endeavor in virtually every area: marketing, a botched service-model, and gameplay that failed to hit the mark.
EA’s nasty earnings call snub should surprise no one. It’s just a preemptive obituary for a giant doomed to fail before it was even released.