Some of the hype around Battlefield V is starting to turn sour. In a note to investors (as The Wall Street Journal spotted), analyst Doug Creutz of investment firm Cowen & Co. said that the game’s preorder numbers were looking weak compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2. Then on August 14, former DICE boss and long-time Electronic Arts executive Patrick Söderlund left the publisher. This has caused a lot of speculation among the fan community on forums and YouTube. The assumption is that the World War II shooter is a failure, but sources familiar with Electronic Arts and DICE tell a different story.
Söderlund’s exit had nothing to do with Battlefield V. He had at least one foot out the door for months after spending decades with DICE and then EA.
And Battlefield V isn’t about to bomb even if it isn’t doing as well as Battlefield 1 was at this point. It is also underperforming EA’s internal expectations. That is one of the main reasons the company did not raise its full-year revenue guidance during its last quarterly financial report. The credit for missing expectations likely goes to the disappointing reveal event and an October 19 release date that rubs up against Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 on October 12 and Red Dead Redemption 2 on October 26.
I’ve reached out to EA, and it chose not to comment on this story.
Even with all of that working against Battlefield V, it is not “failing.” It may not be living up to internal estimates at EA, but it is already outperforming Titanfall 2 by a significant margin. And having a game that is struggling to compete for preorders this fall is not unique to Electronic Arts.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is the only fall release that is meeting expectations at one major distributor, according to a source familiar with online retail. So yes, Battlefield V is coming in weak, but so is Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. So is everything that isn’t the next hotly anticipated release from Rockstar Games.
Red Dead is so huge that it isn’t leaving room for competing products, and Fortnite is still massive. Those two games are potentially creating an environment where other blockbuster online shooters may struggle to thrive.
But EA does have a contingency plan if Battlefield V’s revenue trajectory turns south. DICE has major post-launch support plans that involve its battle royale mode. As I reported previously, the studio’s take on the last-player standing concept probably won’t debut alongside the game in October. But DICE and EA may use that opportunity to get creative with how it distributes it. Fortnite, the major battle royale game on consoles, is free-to-play, so the publisher will have to take that into mind when it comes time to roll out Battlefield Royale.
Finally, EA is working on a big surprise for long-time Battlefield fans. It wants to wait until it sees how the game does in its first month, but it may incorporate that surprise into the shooter as free DLC if it feels the need to drive sales. Creating more value is something the blockbuster shooter franchises are doing more often. Call of Duty will also have a battle royale mode in addition to three different campaigns for its popular Zombies mode. In 2016, Activision bundled Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered in with the new Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare to encourage old fans to come back.
If Battlefield V does fizzle at launch, DICE and EA are ready to use some tricks to ensure it has a chance to bounce back similar to games like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege.
But with an open beta for Battlefield V coming September 4 and DICE working to get new trailers out to win over fans, a weak launch is not a foregone conclusion. DICE just has to give fans a reason to get excited.