Things have not gone well for Battlefield 2042, the latest entry in EA's long-running military shooter series. It was buggy at launch, forcing DICE to rush fixes, and worse, many Battlefield fans really didn't care for some of the game's core design choices. As we noted when Battlefield 2042 was hammered with negative user reviews on Steam immediately after launch, the majority of early complaints focused on deliberate design choices that players felt stripped away too much of the traditional Battlefield character. The discontent ran deeply enough that EA recently decided to push the launch of Battlefield 2042's first season into early summer, so developers can work on improving the core game with both fixes and new features.
Unsurprisingly, that unhappiness translated into relatively poor sales. In a quarterly investors call, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said that "the launch of Battlefield 2042 did not meet expectations." He also acknowledged that while some of its problems arose from the difficulties of working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, fans just didn't care for some of the changes that developers made to the formula.
"Through our processes for testing and preparation, we believed the experience was ready to be put in our players' hands," Wilson said. "We launched with strong stability, however, as more players experienced the full game, it became clear there were unanticipated performance issues that we would need to address. Some of the design choices we made with the game also did not resonate with everyone in our community."
The good news—for EA, at least—is that despite being a high-profile game, Battlefield 2042 represents a relatively small slice of the pie compared to games like Apex Legends and FIFA, which remain strong. Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen said during the call that Battlefield's underperformance had little impact on the company's overall fortunes.
"As originally forecast, the Battlefield franchise would have accounted for significantly less than 10% of this year’s net bookings and well below 5% of next year's," Jorgensen said. "We’re revising those numbers, but you can see it has little impact on FY 2023 growth."
"To summarize, we just delivered the largest quarter in the company’s history. FIFA goes from strength-to-strength. Apex Legends continues to show extraordinary growth. Battlefield disappointed, but our broad portfolio of games and live services insulates us from the impact of any one title."
Today we’re sharing the latest #Battlefield 2042 details, our new player feedback loop, and a status update for Season One. Learn full details: https://t.co/6y8368gebO pic.twitter.com/WrueRz2ICmFebruary 1, 2022
Wilson said EA remains "fully committed to realizing the full potential" of Battlefield 2042, and promised to "work closely with our community to evolve and improve the core experience." He also expressed confidence—in the form of a brutal backhanded compliment—in the ability of Battlefield studio DICE's ability to turn the game around.
"As much as I hate to admit it, DICE is the studio that has been able to do this a number of times now and really go back and rebuild at the core and re-engage the community, as long as we do that in conjunction with a committee. That’s what that studio was so great at doing," Wilson said.
"So I think the combination of DICE with the new leadership and a strong vision for the future, we will build out the core, we will re-engage the community and we will manifest that demand that we saw coming into launch over the course of time."
DICE general manager Oskar Gabrielson, who had worked on the series as far back as Battlefield 3, left the company in December, just a couple of weeks after the release of Battlefield 2042, and was replaced by former Ubisoft Annecy studio director Rebecka Coutaz. At the same time, overall responsibility for the Battlefield series was handed to Respawn co-founder Vince Zampella.
EA declined to provide specific sales numbers for Battlefield 2042—Jorgensen said only that "clearly we sold less units than we thought we would"—and Wilson did not address the possibility of the game going free to play at some point in the future, saying only that the company has "a big bold vision for this franchise," and that it will continue to work on "new and interesting ways to engage with this game."