Moving from one console generation to the next is seldom a smooth process. Whether you’re talking about hardware errors (red ring of death, anyone?), inventory issues or buggy software, something’s bound to go wrong. People simply deal with it, move on and wait for the industry’s growing pains to wane. One of the most publicized problems of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launches has been EA’s trouble with Battlefield 4. Bugs in both console versions have put a damper on BF fans’ next-gen experience, but the Battlefield 4 Xbox One issues have been particularly painful.
DICE has launched two Xbox One patches to address kill-trade issues, one-hit deaths and other technical glitches. Even our own readers have commented, though, that the patches have made some things worse. The Battlefield 4 Xbox One problems are well documented, as is the gaming community’s frustration with them. To DICE’s credit, the developer is determined to make things right. But what exactly does “right” mean? And can any Battlefield 4 Xbox One patches actually solve BF4’s real problem? Because I’m not sure the issue is Battlefield’s alone.
Hearing of the Battlefield 4 Xbox One glitches has surely kept some people from buying the game. EA hasn’t yet released specific sales figures, so that’s just conjecture. But those glitches could simply have been a convenient excuse for gamers to not buy a FPS they weren’t planning to buy anyway. The last time Battlefield straddled a console generation, from PS2/Xbox to Xbox 360, the game’s total sales went down by 700,000 units. By the time the older generation was out of the picture sales jumped back up, outselling the previously single-gen SKUs by 340,000. Clearly the next-gen transition comes with some speed bumps.
Activision predicted the same bumps for 2013, stating this summer that its Call of Duty: Ghosts sales results would likely be lower than previous years due to the transition to Xbox One and PS4. Well, Ghosts sold to the tune of $1 billion in total software in 24 hours, alleviating some fears, but it was a current-gen sales figure and didn’t divulge unit sales. It also didn’t reflect next-gen sales, as those SKUs hadn’t yet launched.
On the surface, it’s therefore tempting to say BF4 is a flop and COD: Ghosts is the victor. Looking at the Xbox Live usage stats from Microsoft’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb for the week of Nov. 25 seems to imply the same. The Call of Duty franchise has five games in that list’s top 15 rankings, four in the top 10, and three games in the top six. BF4 is at #7 — behind the past three COD games. Surely that’s not good news for EA and DICE, right? After all, people are choosing to play years-old COD games over Battlefield 4.
Not necessarily. With that many people playing years-old COD titles, is Activision’s new game failing to attract new players? What’s more, according to a game analyst from Cowen & Company, Call of Duty: Ghosts sales are down 19% from Black Ops 2, which in turn were down 36% from Modern Warfare 3. Yes, Ghosts was the top-selling game in North America in November according to NPD data, and Battlefield 4 grabbed second. But we’ve now seen three Call of Duty games with three decreases in total unit sales. And in the UK, the launch-week sales for Call of Duty: Ghosts were down 50% from Black Ops 2’s totals when you omit the massive launch-day results, and the game still managed just the third sales spot for the month behind GTA 5 and FIFA 14 even with that massive day-one haul.
So the real questions, at least for me, are whether gamers are finally suffering from “sequel-itis” bad enough that we’re slowing our purchase of even the most-storied FPS franchises? The issue doesn’t seem to be limited to Battlefield 4 Xbox One issues, nor is it strictly a Call of Duty franchise sales problem. Are we looking for something fresh and new, even as we fight to show the world that mobile gaming isn’t killing the console? Is there a reason there’s such an outcry for the lack of Xbox One indie games? Is there so much excitement over the RPGs coming in 2014 because the games just look good, or is it because we’re looking for fewer near-future shooter experiences? In short, is the real problem not technical glitches and bugs, but an overall malaise with the FPS genre? I’ll be interested to see Major Nelson’s most-played games data in the weeks ahead to see if that’s a possibility. And as always, I’ll be interested to read your comments and ideas below if you wish to share them.