Welcome to the Holiday 2011 Video Game World Championship match up! This battle promises to be an epic slug fest between two powerhouses vying for supremacy in today's hottest gaming market.
In this corner, coming off the biggest win of his career and the current Video Game World Champion, "Don't call me CoD" Mmmmmmmooooodern Warfare 3!!!
And in this corner, long time stalwart of the PC and poised to be the next comeback kid, "Looking for Good Company" Baaaaaaaaaaattlefield 3!!!!
Certainly this match up is going to be epic. It's been awhile since we have seen such clear and direct competition in a genre. What makes this even more unique is that the modern day first person shooter is THE genre. Activision looks to continue it's money making run with the current champion and EA is definitely looking to do more than throw a few punches at the champ, they are out for blood this time.
So who is going to come out on top? I think we can declare a winner by looking at a few key area's of this epic battle.
Round 1: Marketing
Both Activision and EA are no slouch when it comes to marketing their products and getting good name recognition. The Modern Warfare and Call of Duty names are well known at this point and will leads to sales on console.
By that same token Battlefield is a long respected PC franchise and will sell copies by the name alone in that market. With both BF 1943 and BF: Bad Company 2 doing well on consoles the past few years the BF name has gained some traction in the console space as well.
So both sides have good name recognition but who is going to push their product harder with Ads? Honestly, if EA hopes to win this round they are going to need to throw a lot of money (and probably more than Activision) at this to point compete. Activision is almost too big to lose this round, with CoD and WoW money in hand, Activision will have defeated themselves if they don't win the marketing battle.
Round 2: Pre-release Buzz
E3 is over and both games got to show what they are all about. Both games were impressive and looked sharp during the conferences. Listening to podcasts and seeing forum discussion and blog comments, it is becoming clear that core gamers are leaning towards BF3.
This thought is supported by the current Facebook Like and Tweet rankings that these games have at Hypinion.com (sorry, a little self-promoting here!). Where BF3 has consistently, day in and day out, beaten MW3 in terms of FB Likes growth. The general public is clearly more excited about BF3 than MW3 at this current juncture. You can even see that MW3 lost over 60,000 FB Likes at the announcement of CoD: Elite. This battle will almost certainly get a lot closer come to crunch time, but BF3 appears to be winning the core gamers over at this point.
Round 3: Critic Response
With the earlier release date of Battlefield 3, this is when this battle could be lost for EA. Battlefield 3 won't pull over Modern Warfare fans if the critics aren't won over first. The validity of Metacritic aside, it is true that if BF3 comes out strong with a Metacritic score in the 90s it could be the hay maker that takes down the champ. A score that high would be tough to compete with and the positive buzz could completely topple the CoD empire.
However, in the case that BF3 scores in the 80s I think the fight could get dirty with fans of both franchises duking it out. The Modern Warfare 3 metacritic score significance swings the other way, if the game gets something in the 90s it probably won't affect this battle much, but if the score is significantly lower than BF3's than Activision should start to worry about the repercussions.
Round 4: Sales Figures
This will be a tough battle for BF3 to win. MW3 is almost guaranteed to sell well on name alone, regardless of quality. BF3 on the other hand will have to prove itself to reach beyond what MW3 will earn. It's certainly possible, but it will be tough and the right combination of events will need to unfold for that kind of an outcome.
Another knock against BF3 is that it almost certainly will sell better on PC than on console which traditionally is a place we don't hear much about in terms of sales. I am sure both sides are going to want to announce their financials if things are going well and by all accounts judging the pre-release buzz both of these games are going to sell very, very well. So odds are we will get some kind of sales numbers from both companies, no matter how oddly they are presented (for example I expect EA to boast PC sales early and Activision to trumpet their 360 sales).
Round 5: Multiplayer
If some how, some way we have gotten to round 5 without a clear winner, this is where the champ will be decided. Both MW3 and BF3 are known for their multiplayer modes. They offer different approaches to FPS multiplayer, so that gamers could potentially want to play both. However, traditionally people go where friends go.
This battle won't be decided on day one for either game's release, this will come down to early 2012. Whose online audience will stick with it longer? This is where MW3's online familiarity could become it's downfall. MW3 will almost certainly feature their tried and true multiplayer, but has it been one game too many at this point? Activision is notorious for running franchises into the ground and the CoD fatigue is fast approaching for a lot of core gamers. The question will be, are the casual core gamers, the gamers that pick up one or two games a year, are they tired of it yet?
There are a whole slew of other things to take into consideration. BF3 is running a brand new graphic/physics engine that looks "next-gen", while MW3 is starting to look a little old and tired on their engine. MW3 is being developed by many developers and on a shorter development cycle and could suffer because of that. The Battlefield series has always been a PC focused franchise and so far it seems that is where DICE is most focused, will that hurt the console versions and turn off the console crowd?
All things considered it will be a very close battle, much closer than anyone would have thought a year ago. After the poor performance of Medal of Honor and the "distraction" to CoD that Bad Company 2 was for gamers, it looked like EA wasn't going to be able to produce something to compete at the same level. Since this spring however, the gap has closed significantly and I can honestly say that the underdog might just win this fight.