That’s right, Battlefield 3 was my disappointment of the year
The following was submitted by Josh Winfrey of the Gamechurch Faction.
Battlefield 3 (BF) is a fantastic multiplayer shooter that thousands loyally support, defend, and play. Unfortunately, due to its publisher EA, it is also my sharpest disappointment of 2011. With Infinity Ward in shambles, growing annoyance with Activision’s Call of Duty (CoD) re-release strategy, and loads of hype from EA, BF looked to finally bring some valid competition to the genre. But a string of bizarre and even poor decisions severely hampered the success of the launch. Though it sold millions, the lost goodwill and momentum for the BF series will haunt EA in the future.
The first mistake was the arrogance of EA. Activision, to their credit, took the high road under a barrage of trash talking. In hindsight, EA leaders grossly overestimated BF’s potential to challenge CoD. Though EA began backtracking in earnest as the release date approached, no amount of expectation management could change what had been said. Even before the beta–we’ll get to that later– the asinine and strangely confident tone of EA started turning gamers off. In an extension of this unjustified hubris, EA launched a new digital distribution store: Origin.
To the dismay of PC gamers, EA further announced that BF 3 would not be sold through Steam. The PC crowd is the only one privy to the epic scale and graphical prowess that defines the BF experience. Thus EA decided to bully their most enthusiastic consumers and chose their highest profile game to be the guinea pig for Origin. I’m not convinced Origin will prove more profitable in the long run and I’m certain tarnishing the BF brand was a poor decision.
What was much worse than any money grab was the disastrous ‘beta’ made available mere weeks before release. Bugs abounded and the maps (a linear subway?) marginalized the game play and highlighted the weaknesses rather than strengths of BF. Giving EA the benefit of the doubt, many gamers assumed the demo was designed to stress test the notoriously inadequate EA servers. With shaken expectations yet optimism for a clean launch, gamers awaited the end of October.
Upon release the servers melted down and players found connecting difficult. Of all the EA missteps this was the most egregious. EA had high preorder numbers, beta testing, aggressive marketing, past failures and still botched the launch. For my CoD friends who weren’t totally put off by the beta, the connection issues at launch were the final straw. It’s worth noting that CoD peer to peer, while not perfect, was functional at launch.
In addition, the marketing followed CoD’s formula, the single player was somehow worse than CoD (a stunning feat), and expectations were stoked far too high. The only segment that could possibly be pleased with BF is online PC players, assuming they were willing to invite Origin into their computer. Console players will have to keep waiting for a reasonable FPS alternative to CoD.