Electronic Arts was once considered “the most hated gaming company in the world.” Activision seems intent on usurping that title, however.
Both companies publish a wide range of games, but for both – first-person shooters are a big chunk of their bread and butter. EA is publishes franchises like Battlefield, Battlefront, Mass Effect, and Titanfall. Activision relies heavily on Call of Duty. Who’s winning the battle?
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I’ll be honest – I loved Call of Duty from the beginning. Modern Warfare remains one of my favorite gaming experiences, and I was slow to fully-embrace the Battlefield franchise, until the release of Battlefield 3.
My support for the companies has now flipped entirely. Activision seems wholly out-of-touch with their player base, continuing to pursue Call of Duty games set in the future, despite smaller returns and a growing outcry from fans. Their game design and downloadable content has grown more exploitive with each entry in the franchise. Instead of creating more compelling gameplay experiences, Activision has focused efforts on monetizing personalization options in Call of Duty. Black Ops 3‘s supply drops are basically gambling, especially since you can get doubles of an item (which can then be converted into a pitiful amount of Cryptokeys). While EA’s Battlefield franchise offers a similar system with Battlepacks, at least you don’t receive items you already have. EA also read the market very well with Battlefield 1: finding a way to satiate our desire for historical combat and new experiences.
Activision’s support for games has also been largely lacking. Once a new entry in the Call of Duty franchise is released, nearly all support stops for the previous game. This leaves players feeling abandoned. EA has done a tremendous job with Battlefield 4. The game was released in 2013, and it continues to get new maps – for free. Some of these maps are brand new, and other are favorites from previous Battlefield games. By contrast, Activision is all too happy to charge players for updated versions of maps they already paid for in previous games.
Another part of Activision’s problems lies in its lack of diversification with intellectual properties (IPs). The company leans too heavily on Call of Duty, trying to fit combat ranging from World War II to space under the same umbrella. EA has diversified and strengthened its game offerings. Instead of trying to market futuristic combat mechs under the Battlefield title (like Battlefield 2142), the company has thrown its support into Titanfall. When it comes to space battles, EA has Mass Effect. This is a result of very smart and forward-thinking business strategy. As a result, fans are never disappointed when they’re told Titanfall 2 will have Titans, or Mass Effect Andromeda is set in space. There are no questions or outcry, because it is what fans of those series love and expect.
EA has also developed EA Access on Xbox One. If you’re a fan of EA’s different franchises, it’s a tremendous deal. You early access to EA games, 10% off digital preorders, 10% off digital titles, 10% off in-game purchases, 10% off season pass-type subscriptions, and access to a library of games. At $29.99 a year, it pays for itself quickly if you play many of their games. The library of games is actually impressive. Here’s what’s currently in it:
- Rory McIlroy PGA Tour
- FIFA 16
- Madden NFL 16
- Battlefield Hardline
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- FIFA 15
- Battlefield 4
- Madden NFL 15
- Need for Speed Rivals
- Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare
- NHL 15
- EA Sports UFC
- NBA LIVE 15
- Peggle 2
- FIFA 14
- Madden NFL 25
- Dead Space
- Plants vs. Zombies
And surprisingly it doesn’t even take that long for games to wind up in the Vault. EA Access members also enjoy other occasional freebies, including some DLC packs. Recently, EA Access gave subscribers Premium subscriptions for both Battlefield Hardline and Battlefield 4.
Activision has nothing like this, and they’ve been complacent with their success, content to milk consumers year after year using the same formula (and the same core engine from 1999).
If EA was serious about forming a better relationship with their customers, Battlefield 1 is the golden opportunity. The response to the game’s announcement has been overwhelmingly positive. Providing a solid launch, top-notch support, occasional freebies, more social support, and rewards for consistent players would be the equivalent of putting the nail in Activision’s coffin. If they’re looking to increase their exposure and market share, now is the time.
As a gamer, I’d the state of gaming over the last few years has been less than ideal. We’ve seen terrible launches of unfinished products (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater), dealt with poor post-launch support (The Division), and seen all the wrong kinds of developer involvement (Destiny). Before I purchase a game, I basically have to consider how screwed-over I’m going to be by the developer and publisher – and that really takes a lot of fun out of gaming.
If EA and Battlefield 1 make it a no-brainer for players to choose their franchise over Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Activision’s goose is cooked for years to come.