Star Wars Battlefront is nearly here. It’s going to be huge, there’s no doubt about that. Even if some old fans have been put off by changes since the original Battlefront games, nostalgia will still play a role. Then there’s the fact that a new Star Wars movie hits less than a month later. It’s also a shooter from the guys who brought us Battlefield. In short, it has a lot going for it.
But it has a few struggles it needs to overcome to achieve long-term success.
This is a game from the team behind the Battlefield games. That’s still a good name in many circles, but in others it’s become synonymous with broken games thanks to a troubled launch for Battlefield 4 and middling reviews and sales for Battlefield Hardline earlier this year. It’s also releasing just weeks after another huge multiplayer shooter, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, a game that’s classically been a huge competitor for Battlefield. This year’s entry is also the sequel to Black Ops II, the best-selling and, for many, best-liked entry in the long-running series.
A couple obstacles, though, are internal to the game and its parent company, Electronic Arts.
The game has about a zillion different modes. On the one hand, this is really cool! There are tons of ways to play Battlefront. Variety should be a good thing, right?
There are lots of games asking for players’ time this year, though, and lots of multiplayer games in particular. Many players will inevitably be distracted by things such as Halo 5 and the aforementioned Call of Duty, not to mention single player stuff like Fallout 4, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and Rise of the Tomb Raider. While quite a few players will focus on one game, others will be multitasking. A multiplayer game needs a strong community to thrive. Its different modes need to be lively and full of players for not just weeks but months (or years, in the case of Black Ops II). With so many modes, the struggle that Battlefront faces is one of a fanbase divided. Splitting a smaller group among so many modes can make it tougher to find a game and make it take longer to get into the fun.
The other way EA is splitting up their players is with the overly-expensive season pass. At $50, it’s the most expensive season pass on a major retail release, even more than the $40 season pass for Batman: Arkham Knight. The Dark Knight’s pass has been a disappointment for many fans, with the bonus missions and skins feeling worth less than the promise of the expensive pass. With Battlefront, EA has a steep hill to climb up. For $50, they need to bring a ton of content to bear. They’re asking for nearly the price of a new game, and that’s what fans are going to expect if they buy the pass.
But $50 is simply too expensive for many. The $60 game pricetag is hard for many gamers to swallow, and the idea of dumping another $50 when they normally just pick up one or two games a season is going to be unimaginable.
This splits up the fanbase further. As EA introduces more maps and, quite possibly, modes, they’re dividing across that many more maps and modes that a huge portion of their fanbase won’t have access to. Halo 5, for example, has promised that maps will be free, meaning that whether you spend money or not, you’ll be able to play with all your friends regardless of how much money they’ve spent on the game. While I don’t think Star Wars Battlefront is going to have any trouble right out of the gate – I’d bet against that, in fact – I can’t help but wonder how the game’s competition and its publisher’s decisions will affect its long term viability as a multiplayer game and how that, in turn, will affect the game’s future.
Star Wars Battlefront hits PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 17, and is available now for 10 hours of play on Xbox One via EA Access.