With the release of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 upon us, some have suggested that this game has the best chance of challenging Modern Warfare's position on top of first person shooters. This perception of direct competition is well founded, the DICE team has clearly gotten a lot of inspiration from Modern Warfare, while at the same time retaining the feel of a Battlefield game. This could potentially be a killer combination which publisher Electronic Arts seems ready to capitalize on. Bad Company combined with the Medal of Honor franchise are looking to dethrone Call of Duty as king of shooters, but will they be successful?
EA Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello believes Bad Company 2 will not only challenge Modern Warfare but that it has an "advantage" in terms of both single and multiplayer. He also believes that the combination of Bad Company and Medal of Honor will help EA surpass Modern Warfare's commercial success. "I'm not saying it's going to happen tomorrow, but in the way that Activision sort of alternates sequels of Modern Warfare and Call of Duty and owns the leadership position in FPS [first-person-shooter], between Medal of Honor and Battlefield, I want it back... we're going to get there with innovation and quality," Riccitiello said, bold statements in the face of one of the biggest franchises in gaming.
Riccitiello isn't the only one touting Bad Company's ability to surpass Modern Warfare, former DICE CEO Fredrik Liliegren feels the same way. During a recent interview with us, Liliegren stated that in terms of overall game package he expects Bad Company will be better than Modern Warfare. Liliegren is admittedly not the most objective person when it comes to products released by his former studio, nonetheless, his praise of Bad Company's gameplay still carries weight.
After playing both the PS3 multiplayer beta and demo for Bad Company 2 it becomes clear that Riccitiello and Liliegren weren't just blowing smoke. Graphically, the game looks fantastic; the lighting is top notch, the environments look gritty and realistic, and the draw distance is pretty impressive. All of this combined with Bad Company's signature destructible environments makes for great fun. There really isn't a better feeling than blowing a hole in the side of a building and catching three people off guard. Refinements to the destructibility also add to the experience, for example, an engineer can drill a tiny hole in the side of a wall to shoot from. The controls definitely take a page out of Infinity Wards book, but that is by no means a big thing; Bad Company 2 is easier to get into because it imitates the Call of Duty control scheme.
Bad Company 2 definitely rivals Modern Warfare as a game, the real test is whether or not it can become as big of a brand. Modern Warfare 2 sold over 12 million units worldwide just in 2009, therefore Bad Company 2 has a massive hill to climb. The first Bad Company, released in 2008, sold a mere 2.2 million units worldwide. However, this time there are several factors that will boost the franchise's sales, such as a larger install base for Xbox 360 and PS3, positive word of mouth in the hardcore community and a large marketing campaign planned by EA. The publisher has mentioned that a "substantial" TV ad campaign for Bad Company 2 is planned for the game's release. If the demo is any indication (it was downloaded over 3.5 million times in February), Bad Company 2 has caught the attention of many gamers and is poised to cut into Modern Warfare's market share. Prediction: Bad Company 2 sells 5 million units worldwide.
The other franchise mentioned in EA's strategy to take down Modern Warfare, Medal of Honor, is largely a mystery at this point. We know the game will be set in present day Afghanistan, but that's about it. John Riccitiello's statements seem to suggest that Medal of Honor will be released in fall 2010 and the franchise will alternate with Battlefield on a yearly release schedule. The problem with this strategy is that the Medal of Honor brand has lost a great deal of its relevance; the last iteration, Airborne, sold less than a million units. The new direction the series is taking, mirroring Modern Warfare, likely won't help the situation because the audience is already saturated with first person shooters.
Overall, it seems like EA is taking a step in the right direction in their quest to surpass Modern Warfare, however, they likely won't get there anytime soon. The strength of the Modern Warfare brand is by far the biggest hurdle EA must overcome. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 will no doubt make significant gains because of the gameplay refinements, marketing support and buzz around it, although, it remains to be seen whether the combination of Bad Company and Medal of Honor alternating yearly is a winning one, mainly because Medal of Honor still has a lot to prove. For the time being Modern Warfare will retain its place atop first person shooters.