Electronic Arts still has a slate of paid expansions on the way for Star Wars Battlefront, starting with the recently released Outer Rim DLC and then three more packs to follow. The publisher hopes this will extend the game's lifespan by at least another year since Battlefront 2 anytime soon - at least anytime. Instead, EA is planning to release the next installment of another major shooter franchise in 2016.
During an investment call last year, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen was laid out the plans for alternating the company’s shooter titles saying: “What we’ve said is that our intention over the next couple of years is to have a first person shooter as one of the core titles. This year, it’s Star Wars Battlefront. Next year, it’s another Battlefield title.” CEO Andrew Wilson confirmed this at the company’s 2016 Q3 earnings call by adding, “an all-new Battlefield game from DICE will arrive in time for the holidays.”
That's no surprise at all given EA's increasingly rushed schedule of Battlefield titles (see: BF4 and Hardline) and their prior efforts to alternate annually between Battlefield and the failed Medal of Honor franchise. What is a surprise however is EA announcing that it will not be attending this year’s E3 trade show in June. Instead they're hosting an event called EA Play during the same time period as E3 in Los Angeles and London where fans can attend and get hands-on with EA's new projects. Their usual E3 press conference will be moved to EA Play instead where we expect plenty of new game announcements.
The specifics of what they'll bring - and again, it's going to be a lot given that they're funding two major events on their own - is up to speculation but it's a safe bet Battlefield will play a starring role. There have even been multiple images leaked online that outline Battlefield 5's potential DLC plans and map names. One image suggests that June 12 (the first day of EA Play and when the press conference is happening) is the date of the official reveal and another gives Battlefield 5 the subtitle of Eastern Front. That may not be the final title of the full game as the list of alleged DLC packs have several other subtitles after Battlefield 5 with only the first being called Eastern Front.
Press Conference Live & Online: June 12, 1 p.m. PT/9 p.m. BST
A big grain of salt should be taken with these supposed image leaks as gamers still feel the burn from those fake Nintendo NX controller photos but there are some interesting theories being thrown around. One that the list of proposed DLC seems to point at is the main campaign potentially focusing on a WW3 scenario involving an invasion of the U.S. by Russian forces. That is just how Battlefield: Bad Company 2 ended, with Russians advancing through Alaska and Canada. The Bad Company titles were arguably the most loved in the franchise and returning to that storyline is overdue.
Whether or not it's too late to return to Bad Company remains to be seen, and it's doubtful they'd choose that path over a numbered core installment given the success and sales numbers of Battlefield 3 and 4. Delivering worthy campaign stories has been arguably the largest obstacle the franchise has failed to overcome with BF3, BF4 and the most recent Battlefield: Hardline which was a bit of a disaster in term of popularity and critical reviews. So, count on Battlefield 5 releasing this fall after an unveiling in June at EA Play.
Hardline was developed by Visceral Games but for this year's tentpole release, DICE (the creators of Battlefield and EA's Frostbite game engine) is back and (hopefully) learning from their experience with Star Wars Battlefront. They need to bring Battlefield back from the brink to keep it relevant against their own Battlefront and the rumored space-based Call of Duty game that's expected to release in early November.
The question then becomes, what will Battlefield 5 be about and what will it do different? BF4 was practically the same game as BF3 and failed to innovate so will this be more of the same, modern-set, with similar weapons set on new maps? Three years ago, a leaked survey from EA asked questions to fans about ideas for different BF add-on content. The most appealing of them all was the idea of a fun-focused dinosaur mode, a theme fans and the devs have been teasing back and forth for years. It was a pipedream but EA and DICE do need to revisit those out of the box ideas to find their ‘zombies mode’ - something that's proven wildly successful for their top competitor.
EA also must take into consideration where Battlefield 5 will fit within its own properties. Mass Effect: Andromeda is on the way, as is Titanfall 2 and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. The former two alongside Battlefield 5 are all confirmed to release in the fiscal year. How will the company ensure they’re not cannibalizing their own audience? Battlefield 5 could release in the same window that Battlefront released in last year while the new Mass Effect might be pushed as the major Q1 2017 release. EA Play could be a bigger event than any of the company's previous E3 press conferences in recent memory, and not just because of these notable titles, but because of their exclusive Star Wars deal which has them secretly working away on multiple triple-A games. Expect news on that front as well at EA Play.
And could Battlefield 5 make use of the biggest trend of 2016 - VR tech?