Call of Duty may look to have the first person shooter market sown up, but try telling that to EA.
The publisher was once a market leader in the FPS genre with its Medal of Honor series. However, the company has since been eclipsed by the likes of Activision, Microsoft, Valve and Sony.
It’s a situation EA are acutely aware of, and last month senior VP for Europe, Jens Uwe Intat, told MCV: “We are working on getting that crown back.”
One way EA plans to do this is by re-launching its Medal of Honor series later this year, but the publisher’s first assault on the genre takes place on March 5th with Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
The Battlefield series began life on PC in 2002 with the launch of Battlefield 1942 – the spiritual successor to the 1999 hit Codename Eagle.
Since then its creator, Swedish studio DICE, has developed a multitude of sequels, spin-offs and expansions (see ‘A Battlefield Legacy’) and the popularity has grown with each release.
“When launched, Battlefield pushed the FPS genre forward with the introduction of huge, open environments in which large numbers of players could duke it out in vehicles as well as on foot,” says EA executive producer Karl Magnus Troedsson.
“Over the years this recipe has evolved with innovative additions. Moving forward we tread carefully, realising that success isn’t only about having all the features but depends more on how they come together in a coherent and well-polished way.”
Battlefield games have evolved over time to take in different settings, such as WWII, Vietnam, modern day and even the future. But the main challenge for DICE wasn’t taking Battlefield through history, but from the PC to the console.
“Bringing Battlefield to console was a challenge but wasn’t as complicated as people seem to think,” adds Troedsson.
“A lot of hard work was needed in order to create our Frostbite engine that Battlefield: Bad Company was built on, but getting the Battlefield formula to function on consoles turned out to be more about having a clear understanding of each platform.”
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat on Xbox and PS2 was the franchise’ first foray onto consoles, but it wasn’t until 2008’s Battlefield: Bad Company on 360 and PS3 that the series hit the big time on home formats. And now EA hopes to take that one step further with its sequel.
“Bad Company 2 is about to make some serious noise,” says Troedsson. “I couldn’t be more happy with the game – which the awesome team here in Stockholm has created – and I hope everyone will get to experience the huge leap in quality that we’re taking here.”
So what of Battlefield’s long-term future? Well, one area EA has been experimenting with is in the digital space.
Last year EA released Battlefield 1943 as a download on PSN and Xbox Live, and the game was downloaded over one million times in a little over a month. Meanwhile, in June 2009 a third-person free-to-play digital game entitled Battlefield Heroes was launched, and by December three million gamers had signed up to it.
“Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield 1943 have been experimental for us, not only in terms of gameplay but in the applied business models and distribution methods,” adds Troedsson.
“Experiments are always a bigger risk, but so far we’re very happy with these games and consider them successes.
“Coming from a multiplayer and PC-only background, Battlefield has always performed well in the digital space. With the ongoing transition towards digital, we’re seeing a huge interest and expect to break internal records with the launch of Bad Company 2.
“But this is not just about the distribution method it’s about getting close to our fans. We want to be in direct contact with our community, something which is easier if they’re already in the same digital space.”
DICE’s commitment to its fans bodes well for Bad Company 2, and maybe, just maybe, EA finally has its game to rival the unyielding Call of Duty.