Battlefield Hardline, 4 und 3: Spielerzahlen im Vergleich
Die Deutsche Version dieses Artikels ist auf der ersten Seite zu finden. / The German version of this article can be found on the first page.
About two and a half months ago Electronic Arts released the most recent title in the Battlefield Franchise, Battlefield Hardline. That is reason enough for us to look not only at its commerical success, but also at the number of players playing Hardline - and the older titles Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4. Some of you may already guess at this point what this article is going to be about, as a clear trend is easily visible when looking at these numbers (Note: This article is based on the late evening figures at the time of writing).
Hardline, the console success
Our collegues over at Gamespot have already reported that officially EA is very happy with Battlefield Hardline's sales. Even though the publisher is giving no concrete figures, they have all reason to be happy. IGN is citing a renomated market research institution with the claim that Hardline was the top seller in march - beating Bloodborne and Grand Theft Auto V. Although this result sounds a little bit less spectacular if one is taking into account that Bloodborne is Playstation 4 exclusive and that GTA V was only realeased in April for PC, but had already been released in 2013 for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 and in 2014 for Xbox One and Playstation 4. Still at Electronic Arts they will not have taken note of such headlines without a certain satisfaction. Most interesting however is the only conrete figure in the Gamespot article: some 80% of the sold copies of Hardline were versions for the so called Next Generation consoles Xbox One and Playstation 4, as recently reported by EA CFO Blake Jorgensen.
The trend is toward consoles
The above statement gains further support by taking a simple look at the current figures, as we are displaying them in the "Quickstats" module on our front page. While these lines are being written some 55 000 people play Battlefield Hardline on all platforms combined and some 44 000 alone do so on a Xbox One or Playstation 4 - more than a fifth. Things get even more evident when including the "old" consoles Xbox 360 and Playstation 3: Almost 53 000 of the total 55 000 players at this very moment are playing Battlefield Hardline on a console. On the other hand this means that only a little more than 3.5 percent of them currently play Hardline on the PC. Now comparing these numbers with the two preceding titles, a trend begins to reveal itself. While some 15% of the players playing Battlefield 4 are PC players, their share even reaches one third in the case of Battlefield 3. In short: There are more people playing the three and a half year old Battlefield 3 on PC than there are people playing Battlefield Hardline on the same platform - while the total amount of players playing Battlefield 3 is only one forth.
Is the platform PC called into question?
Electronic Arts is not surprised: "With regards to the market, we expect the console transition to continue at a rapid pace [...]. This is a much faster growth than in previous generations". The already mentioned share of console sales with Hardline only served as an example how far this process has already progressed. But should the above trend continue that would more or less call the platform PC into question (with regard to Battlefield). Regarding Hardline however caution is in order. Although in the Gamespot article CEO Andrew Wilson is reported to be happy that they managed to attract new players with Hardline (which is likely to have been one of its goals), that does not mean that a future title, perhaps again developed by DICE, cateres to different needs. There's also a different perspective to it. Looking at the much larger total number of players still playing Battlefield 4 (and the higher share of PC players), it is worthwhile to ask whether Battlefield can easily let these players go.
The risks for the Battlefield Franchise
In this context the fans of previous titles often, not only with Battlefield, lament that the developers, in their desire to access even larger target groups, so to say loose sight on the brand essence. At the same time the now-common yearly releases in big franchises are much criticised and for example a lack of innovation is proclaimed. Assassins Creed and Call of Duty (which Electronic Arts swore to challenge) often serve as prime examples for such franchises. Here one thing is most interesting with regard to Hardline: Although Patrick Bach (DICE) still mostly ruled out such a course of action in 2011, Hardline is a sequel released only about a year after Battlefield 4. Even more so one developed by a studio other than DICE - another thing that Bach had declared at least very unlikely in 2011. But Bach went even further: he proclaimed yearly releaeses to be the potential death of the whole franchise. Whether this proclamation will reveal itself to be a prophecy only time will tell, but it will likely depend on whether Hardline only assumes the role as a (one time) spin-off, it wouldn't be the first in the Battlefield universe, or whether it preceeds the shift towards yearly Battlefield releases. The risks at least Bach could have assessed correctly: the shorter the intervalls between releases become, the harder it will be to include the degree of innovation that is required to keep the series interesting. And even though yearly releases have payed off well so far for Activision (Call of Duty) and Ubisoft (Assassins Creed) it seems inevitable that at some point they will overstep the mark.