I don’t often do many opinion pieces…I tend to think that they come out too often, and it’s easy to fall into the “high and mighty” stance that you’re always right. But this time, I think I am right when it comes to the announcement of the next Battlefield game. So there.
In the gaming industry, there has been an increasing number of franchises that are falling into the “new upgrade” mindset as each year goes by. The easiest example is, naturally, Call of Duty, which sees a new version coming out on a yearly basis. With the announcement of Battlefield 4, some gamers are wondering if Dice is going in the same direction, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Now, there are some things that can be said in support of putting out a new version of a game each year: done right, it can mean greatly expanding gameplay, bringing new innovations of design into the mix, and furthering single player story elements to move forward the plot of the game while keeping multi player elements open for expansion.
There is a darker side to the story, however, in that many games that see these yearly releases see little, if any innovation and change. So as to not pick exclusively on Call of Duty (and I am going to pick on them more), I’ll instead mention one of the longest running franchises in the gaming universe: Madden. EA Sports’ yearly football game has seen good years and bad years, but has remained a best seller for each new release, though some due criticism has been leveled at the Madden team over the years for editions that contained game-breaking bugs, issues with the AI in the game, and a lack of any real change made to the game (basically making it a small graphical update for the new year). If some of these criticisms sound familiar to fans of shooters, it may be due to the fact that Modern Warfare 3 had many of the same accusations directed at them.
Games like Battlefield 4, which was finally officially announced, can be exciting when they hit the market, but there is still something to be said for letting an existing game continue to exist while expanding gameplay throughout its existence. In my opinion, Dice at least has the right idea by offering a total of five expansions to Battlefield 3, two of which (Back to Karkand and Close Quarters) are already available for players. Armored Combat will land in September of this year, while the Aftermath and End Game expansions are set to ship sometime later this year as of right now. Five expansion packs are great for a first person shooter, and will do well to keep the game fresh for online players, but there is still a lot of nervous attention being shown towards the next game. Battlefield 3 is still less than a year old (not counting the beta period), and many players are still enjoying the game every day. Is it so much to ask that, perhaps, we are allowed to enjoy it fully before the “next game” comes out, and forces us to upgrade to continue playing?
The end result is that gamers will continue to buy into a series that they like, but developers should not be afraid to wait until there is a better reason to upgrade the series. Battlefield 4 will be a great success if it is indeed the next step in advancing the franchise, but if we are simply delivered Battlefield 3.5 instead, it will not be an impressive showing for Dice and Electronic Arts. Activision could learn a similar lesson with Call of Duty, spending less time on simply cranking out the next version of their game with a tiny graphics upgrade and some new weapons, and instead making something that would actually have some impact: compare their first World War II titles with the current iterations, you will see much bigger advances in technology and coding in the early titles than you will see in the more recent versions. You may also notice that those earlier games are still some of the most beloved titles in the franchise, and for good reasons.
The lessons, as a whole, are important for developers to learn, but even more important for consumers to deliver to the companies they love: we would rather see complete games that have quality behind them, even if it makes the game come out later. It pays to have a game that is fully developed, instead of one that releases with a slew of bugs, that seems incomplete (I’m looking at you, Diablo III). It pays to have a game that makes sweeping changes and upgrades (think Battlefield 2142 vs Battlefield 3), instead of the minor upgrade disguising what is essentially the same game (Modern Warfare 2 vs Modern Warfare 3). If gamers want great titles truly deserving of the “game of the year” awards, they should make sure these companies know to follow through. Otherwise, we’re just in for the next run of assembly line reruns.
You must be logged in to post a comment.