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EA confirms Battlefield V did not meet sales expectations

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It’s no secret that Battlefield V had arguably the rockiest start of any entry in the long-running military shooter series. From the moment it was announced, with its sweeping changes to cosmetics and diversity, it had a very vocal contingent of the fanbase rallying against it. It also didn’t help that although developer DICE walked back most of those controversial tweaks, when the game launched it was a buggy mess and missing a lot of the content that had been promised before. DICE have done some amazing work in fixing bugs and pumping out content with their new Tides of War live-service, and BFV really is in a great spot now with some further huge updates right around the corner. But this is now. A few months back and things looked far grimmer as EA CEO Andrew Wilson confirmed in a Q1 earnings call to investors last night.

According to Wilson, delaying the game’s release until December and unbundling hotly anticipated content like the Firestorm battle royale really hurt the game’s launch. While it initially sold 7.3 million units, this was still about 1 million less than EA had expected (which was already almost half of what Battlefield 1 sold at launch).

The desire to make changes to Battlefield V led us to move its launch into a more difficult window, and prioritizing the single=player campaign over the battle royale also hurt sales.

As a result, we sold 7.3 million units, about 1 million less than comprehended by our Q3 guidance. However, people play Battlefield for a long time, and we’re in this for the long haul. Battlefield 1 still has nearly 4 million monthly active used, and Battlefield 4 has nearly 2 million, more than five years after launch.

BF1 and BF4 weren’t the only titles still holding strong as it’s been revealed that over 27 million players played a Battlefield game last year. It also has to be pointed out though, that while BVF’s sales numbers were less than anticipated, EA still made a bunch of cash here. That was because of a sharp uptick in digital sales, which has far fewer overhead costs than physically shipping copies out (EA keeps 100% of all transactions on their Origin platform on PC, for example). In fact, BFV sold less than half the number of physical copies sold when compared to predecessor Battlefield 1. BFV did drive fewer new subscriptions to Origin Access Premiere than expected at launch, but the overall digital sales since have outstripped EA’s estimates.

On top of which, as mentioned above, Tides of War and its daily/weekly challenges and big seasonal content updates helped tremendously to, ahem, turn the tide. Wilson explained that “when we released the Season 2 content in January, Battlefield V became the largest Battlefield game ever.”

And we have an exciting live services plan ahead of us, with the launch of the Firestorm battle royale game mode in March and continuing through fiscal 2020. The live services content presents an opportunity for upside as we look to sell more copies of the base game and players invest in more cosmetic changes to their characters.

There are two things to unpack here, and the first I’ll tackle is Firestorm. According to Wilson, Firestorm “will be a unique take on the royale genre, integrating unique Battlefield characteristics including strategic squad gameplay, varying objectives and vehicles.” However, that may not be enough as EA and Respawn Entertainment just dropped Apex Legends, their free-to-play Titanfall battle royale spinoff, on Monday night to huge acclaim and an almost instantaneous massive player base. How does Firestorm still hold its appeal when players can go out and play a fresh and exciting new battle royale experience with gamechanging mechanics for free right now?

The other element of Wilson’s statement that needs addressing is his mention of players investing in character cosmetics. At the moment, there’s nothing in BFV that costs real-world money, as all items are purchased using Company Coin earned by just playing the game. However, DICE has been planning to launch an additional premium currency system that uses real world money for quite some time now. The inclusion of this new currency has only been delayed due to DICE first fixing one of the game’s biggest and most complex launch bugs that prevent players at max rank from earning any Company Coins for their actions. That was finally fixed last week, which means the new currency is good to go. That also means a whole bunch of additional microtransaction cash will soon be heading EA’s way.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t personally have outright hatred for microtransactions in live-service games – especially ones aimed purely at cosmetics, like in BFV – as I’m fully cognizant that if I want good weekly updates and content, then somebody needs to get paid for it. But there’s a huge portion of gamers that despise microtransactions passionately, no matter how benign they are, and want them gone. We’ll have to see just how many players adopt the system when comes to BFV and just how much they can help to buouy BFV’s once-flagging bottom line even further.

Last Updated: February 6, 2019

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