There’s a new trailer for Battlefield V, the World War II first-person shooter Electronic Arts released last year, highlighting the game’s Chapter 5: War in the Pacific. The trailer, released Wednesday, previews team-based gameplay in settings ranging from Europe to the South Pacific.
War in the Pacific is a free download that will be available on Oct. 31. New maps will include familiar stomping grounds such as Wake Island and Iwo Jima, and add American and Japanese factions to the game, along with a slew of new weapons and vehicles.
The trailer has the feel of a new game and seems far more encompassing than typical downloadable content — especially free content.
However, publisher EA and game developer DICE arguably have been under pressure to build stronger momentum for the game.
Battlefield V sold 7.3 million copies in last fall’s runup to the holiday season, based on reports released earlier this year. While that number indicates the game still has plenty of hardcore fans, the sales missed EA’s projections, which reportedly were closer to 8.3 million.
The shortfall in sales was due to the game’s delay from Oct. 19 to Nov. 20. Now, a year later, EA and DICE apparently are ready to make up the proverbial lost ground by letting players storm the digital beaches of the Pacific.
Return to World War II
EA’s Battlefield series returned to World War II last fall. The previous game in the series, Battlefield 1, focused on the First World War and the Russian Civil War. It included numerous factions not only from the Allied forces (including the French, British, Americans, Russians, and Italians) and Central Powers (including Germans, Austrians, and Ottomans) but also from the Bolshevik “Red” Army and “White” Army in Russia.
With BFV, players so far have been able to play only as the British and Germans. DICE went to great lengths to set the game in areas largely not covered in World War II shooters — such as Norway and the Netherlands.
One of the game’s free download chapters includes a single-player-only campaign that allows the player to take the role of a German soldier in World War II, a first in gaming. It was just one of the controversial moves that the developers made with this latest Battlefield title — and it followed the inclusion of women characters.
Whether Chapter 5: Return to the Pacific will be embraced by gamers, with its new setting and factions, is the question.
“This expansion could help invigorate the Battlefield franchise and title,” said Ted Pollak, senior analyst for the game industry at Jon Peddie Research.
“There has been poor coverage of the WWII Asia Pacific Theater in games,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm is the last title I remember addressing this theater of war, and that was six years ago.”
The Pacific theater of World War II has never been as popular with gamers as the European theater, and this is no doubt is why EA made its return to World War II in Europe. Rival Activision also jumped back into action with its Call of Duty: World War II series two years ago.
Since the initial release of BFV last fall, gamers have clamored for action on the Russian front, which was the site of major tank battles and city sieges. Will gamers be as excited by a return to the Pacific?
“It will depend a lot on how well the new Midway movie does,” said RobEnderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“Initial reports on the movie look positive, but it doesn’t really hit until Nov. 8,” he told TechNewsWorld.
The upcoming Midway movie chronicles the June 1942 battle, widely considered the turning point in the war. It was said the Japanese never lost a battle in the Pacific before Midway and never won another battle afterward.
Midway was a naval battle fought with aircraft, and while BFV does have planes and ships, it doesn’t chronicle beach landings or infantry engagements.
“But if the movie does well, Battlefield V should be able to slipstream the movie,” suggested Enderle. “You need something to create demand for a game like this, and EA has been light in terms of demand-generation efforts. A hit movie that gets gamers excited about the subject matter could do the trick.”
How’s the History?
Beyond controversies, historic games face scrutiny for historical accuracy — everything from the locations to the equipment. A certain level of suspension of disbelief is required with all games, but military-themed games do get called out for missing the small details.
“It actually looks pretty cool, but the action in the video was too fast to process everything,” said John Adams-Graf, military history author and editor of Military Trader/Military Vehicles magazines.
For those in the know, it is easy to spot those small details, like the wrong helmet being worn by the Japanese soldier in the trailer or inaccurate equipment and field gear. A bigger issue is the depiction of the American soldier, who seemed a bit out of place in a World War II setting.
“Stuffing stuff into the rubber band in the helmet seems very VietnamWar-ish,” Adams-Graf told TechNewsWorld.
“The designers may have been going for the photo of the flag raisers at Iwo Jima, but they really missed the mark,” he added.
It is a small detail, but one that has been called out online already, as have some of the planes and weapons.
“The Corsairs (fighter planes) are depicted in what looks like the early war camouflage, but then I see Japanese flying bombs that only appeared in late 1944 and early 1945, so it is hard to know what year the game is depicting,” said Adams-Graf.
Most gamers may look past such issues and enjoy the game for what it is: a generic World War II shooter that doesn’t try too hard to take itself seriously.
Road Map Ahead
Even if hardcore history fans don’t embrace the latest expansion, the Battlefield series has done well enough with the core gamers, and Return to the Pacific is almost like a brand-new game. That alone should help boost sales.
“For a game of the size and scope of Battlefield V, there are still opportunities to be taken advantage of, even if the game underperforms by certain expectations,” said Steve Bailey, senior analyst for games, technology, media & telecoms at IHS Markit in London.
“There’s a road map of ways in which users can be retained and ultimately monetized an ongoing fashion,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“For example, Rainbow Six: Siege has been a success story for Ubisoft but experienced a rocky launch,” noted Bailey.
In that case, Ubisoft invested in a series of responsive updates, which allowed the game to find its feet and audience and then go from strength to strength.
“A similar idea holds for Battlefield V, in that there may still be a core of users who remain highly engaged with the title, and well-made updates can even bring lapsed players back into activity,” Bailey explained.
DLC for Free
Even though the game underperformed last year, in part due to the delay, the right downloadable content could help it find a larger audience. Such add-on content usually doesn’t come cheap, but this time around EA isn’t charging owners of the game for the Return to the Pacific.
Instead of a full-blown expansion, something game developers previously have charged for — the content this time around is being offered for free to build a loyal audience.
“There’s further value to be found from investing in such a sizable franchise. Any resulting momentum established late into the game’s lifecycle could transfer beneficially to the next title in the series and help it get off the ground,” said Bailey. “The point remains, however, that online shooters are an extremely competitive segment, and any success is likely to be hard-fought.”