We here at Only Single Player have spent a surprising amount of time talking about EA DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront, a game that has virtually no single-player content. Initially, it was our hope that the game would include a campaign mode, and when that rumor was dispelled, we held out hope that the single-player Missions mode would be worth playing. Since the release of the game on November 17th, we have largely come to the conclusion that this is quite simply a multiplayer engine, with the only single-player opportunities being hollow and short-lived. For these reasons, the highly-anticipated title made our Biggest Disappointments of 2015 on two accounts. All of this of course begs the question: why are we still talking about this?
The answer, you will find, is that EA can’t stop putting its foot in its mouth over the whole issue. The lack of meaningful content in the core game has been the loudest and most widespread criticism of Star Wars Battlefront, and various EA representatives have taken turns trying to justify this in ways that condescend to our readers. The issue at hand is only the game itself to some small extent; the truth is, EA is out of touch with the gaming community, and especially those players that we serve. Lets take a look at the lengthy list of reasons why.
Starting back in August, senior producer Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir made an interesting claim while explaining the omission of a campaign mode from Battlefront. “As we concepted the game and thought about the legacy of the previous Battlefront games–they didn’t really have campaigns, they’ve always been predominately a multiplayer franchise.” She was of course referring to the well-loved Pandemic Studios franchise, Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront II.
However, Ingvarsdottir’s recollection of the series is substantially different than my own. Either that, or I imagined the many hours of my teenage years (and some of my 20’s, for that matter) spent on the Rise of the Empire campaign, a story of the 501st legion that spans a significant portion of both the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War. And then there was Galactic Conquest, an alternative campaign mode which played like a strategic board game on the surface and included numerous planetary and space battle opportunities. On the contrary, with the state of online play as it was during the PS2’s lifetime, I would hardly pin the games’ multiplayer capabilities as their legacy.
Only a few days later, COO Peter Moore made the first of multiple comments that rubbed us the wrong way when he said in an interview with GameSpot that “Very few people actually play the single-player on these kinds of games.” Moore claimed that he had sufficient data to draw this conclusion, but never bothered to cite it, and frankly the damage was already done. Our own Nick Calandra wrote an op-ed pointing out that the overwhelming feedback aimed at multiplayer games has been to improve the often sub-par single-player experiences, not to remove them completely. These comments revealed that EA DICE had chosen the easy way out by rejecting the notion that such content was expected.
Moore doubled-down on his out-of-touch rhetoric last week, when he spoke about the game’s success and future at the Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. “There are a lot of single player opportunities within the game,” he insisted, “It’s lacking a campaign mode in the eyes of gamers, but it’s got co-op, couch play…it’s not a purely multiplayer game.” I noted it at the time, but I’m still not certain what Moore could possibly mean by “…in the eyes of gamers,” except that the setting in which he made this comment was largely a business one. It sounds an awful lot like Moore is approaching gamers as careless consumers to be duped into giving EA money, and that their feedback does not matter so long as the game meets sales expectations, which it is unfortunately on track to do. At the same conference, GameSpot reported him stating that “There is no weakness that is perceptible yet in the title,” and expressed his surprise that the game had been described as under-performing.
This week, the baton of justification has evidently been passed to CFO Blake Jorgensen. At the Nasdaq Investor Conference in Europe, GameSpot caught him trying to claim that certain content was omitted from Star Wars Battlefront for the sake of accessibility. “Star Wars Battlefront is a first-person shooter, but it is [one of] the only teen-rated first-person shooters,” he explained, “We had designed it to be a much more accessible product to a wide age group. So, an 8-year-old could play with his father on the couch, as well as a teenager or 20-year-old could play the game and enjoy it. It is more accessible. And for the hardcore, it may not have the depth that they wanted in the game.”
Let us be very clear — Star Wars is almost always a teen- or lower-rated experience. The nature of Star Wars’s trademark energy weapons produce unrealistically-low rates of blood and gore (and by that, I mean none). None of the Star Wars video games released since the creation of the ESRB have received a rating higher than teen, and for that matter, none of the films have received a rating above PG-13. The Clone Wars CGI animated series, where people die constantly and in sometimes dark and horrifying ways, is still only rated TV-PG and is considered to be a children’s show. Nothing that might have been included in a campaign mode or any other type of content would have pushed Star Wars Battlefront into a mature rating.
This idea that players who expected meaningful single-player content are “harcore gamers” is absolutely ridiculous. I would not call myself a “hardcore” gamer — not now, and not at the age of 15 when I first picked up Battlefront II. Hardcore gamers play games like Bloodborne. Hardcore gamers crank up the difficulty as high as they can and wear their struggle and victory as a badge of honor. No one has ever been called a hardcore gamer for wanting a cohesive storyline — at least, not until now. But EA is thoroughly out of touch with the very heart of gaming, and after the way we’ve been scoffed at, it’s really hard to hold out hope that a second EA DICE Battlefront would be any different at all, or that such a product would be worth supporting EA either way.
It’s funny — when I went to EA’s E3 showcase this year, I had been joking all day leading up to it that EA is the Evil Empire of the gaming industry. Then, a man walked on stage to talk about Star Wars Battlefront who looked and sounded exactly like someone who would work for the Galactic Empire in Star Wars, and I had a kind of horrifying moment where I realized that it really wasn’t a joke. If only I had taken that notion more seriously back then.