We’ve all seen and felt the winds of change in Star Wars: Battlefront. It started off with a bang, before people realised there just wasn’t much to the game and left in droves to play one of the many other cool games vying for our time. We’ve been through this before though, and recently.
Battlefront isn’t a failure — the developers stated from the beginning they were making a game that the average Star Wars fan could pick up and enjoy, regardless of gaming experience. That’s a goal they achieved. The sights and sounds of the game are incredible, and you really do feel like you’re in the Star Wars universe. The Jakku battle is also a brilliant way to tie the game together with the movie.
But even after a brief play session with the game at EB Expo, I was worried about it. There were balance issues, it seemed random, and it lacked depth. That much was obvious after just a couple of rounds. You could jump in, feel like you were in a Star Wars battle, and that’s where it stopped. There weren’t any underlying systems to learn, not much in the way of mechanics and dynamics to master, and no sense of strategy beyond getting in the best vehicle you could. Certainly no one will will take the game to the next level — no clans will be formed, no competitions held.
At the moment of writing this, there are less than 9,000 people playing SW: Battlefront on PC, and about ten times that amount playing on PS4. To compare, there are about 20,000 people playing Battlefield 4 on PC right now. CS:GO has almost 400,000 people playing right now, with double that as its 24-hour peak, and has spent next to nothing on advertising (though, to be fair, is often very well-placed on the Steam front page).
Not too long ago, we were saying the same things about Titanfall. That game, too, was bursting at the seams with hype. That game, too, saw a month or two of play before becoming a wasteland. I remember plenty of Youtube videos titled “Titanfall Movement Tutorial: Part 1”. In fact, I did one too! Part 2 never came. People stopped playing.
That was because Titanfall, on launch, included no way for you to load up a map and actually practice your wall running and jumping. It was hard to figure out the best way to get from A to B because there was always an actual match happening around you. People who wanted to take the game further needed to know how to rotate from one site to another quickly, having a grenade in the window one second before they enter.
With Battlefront, I don’t even think we’re seeing many “Part 1” tutorials. What’s to learn? Shoot the head, jump in a vehicle, or become the hero.
All things considered, SW: Battlefront probably did quite well commercially, making it a success both monetarily and by achieving its stated goals. But it could have done so much better. Depth equals longevity, and nowadays, longevity is lucrative. It’s how map packs and expansions are sold. It’s how marketplaces involving your game become successful. It’s how a community is formed around your game, creating their own content with your game as the subject. It’s why companies like Riot invest so much in giving players something to look forward to. Something to strive for.
There’s nothing to strive for in Battlefront, and now, when people see an EA shooter, they’d be right to ask these questions. Longevity simply doesn’t seem to be a priority.
It probably matters a lot more to my type of gamer, who likes to pick one game, stick with it, and learn everything about it. Really master it. This type of gamer is very careful about where they spend their time, and likes to pick games that will reward mastery. To these gamers, SW: Battlefront is like getting in your swimmers, slapping on sunblock, getting friends together, and heading to the beach only to find out the water only goes ankle-deep.