Can 'Battlefield V' Overcome Controversy to Become a Hit?

Battlefield V-Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of EA
The upcoming World War II shooter has been on a troubled road to launch, but positive reviews have analysts optimistic about EA's future.

EA's upcoming WWII shooter Battlefield V has traveled a troubled road to launch.

The game received backlash after its reveal trailer premiered in May, with critics citing a lack of historical accuracy as a major complaint. The teaser featured characters with colorful face paint and prosthetics that many felt did not feel authentic to the time period depicted. Another point of contention was the trailer's focus on a female British soldier engaging in frontline battle. The controversy sparked the hashtag #NotMyBattlefield.

While many criticized the game for its inauthenticity, others responded that the critiques were driven by misogyny and unwarranted given the series has not always been historically accurate in the past.

In response to an outcry that the game "abandoned historical accuracy for political correctness," the game's producer Aleksander Grondal tweeted, "We will always put fun over authentic :)." 

Similarly, Oskar Gabrielson — general manager of DICE, the Swedish game company and subsidiary of EA that develops the Battlefield series — tweeted, "Our commitment as a studio is to do everything we can to create games that are inclusive and diverse. We always set out to push boundaries and deliver unexpected experiences. But above all, our games must be fun!"

In an interview with Gamasutra in June, EA CCO Patrick Soderland spoke bluntly about the game and the controversy surrounding it: "Either accept it or don’t buy the game."

The arguments surrounding the game's historical accuracy and representation are just one part of the story, however, as EA also found itself in the midst of an entirely different controversy just last year with Star Wars Battlefront II. That game was met with harsh criticism for its inclusion of "loot boxes" — optional, purchasable in-game packages of items that improve players' characters — with many likening them to gambling. 

The scandal hurt the game's sales significantly, as well as the company's stock value. By the end of November 2017, the month the game was released, EA's stock was down over 8 percent, equating to $3.1 billion in lost value.

After the massive disappointment of Battlefront II, to which Soderlund admitted he had "got it wrong" with loot boxes, EA is undoubtedly hoping Battlefield V will deliver a hit for the company. While the game won't hit shelves until Nov. 15, early reviews have been mostly positive, with the PC version of the title holding an 85 score currently on Metacritic with seven reviews.

Wall Street analysts have been given a boost of confidence from the early reviews, claiming they alleviate some of the recent pressure on EA's shares. In August, EA announced it would push the game's launch back a month, saying, "We're going to take our time to make sure we get it right."

The date change was also significant in that it distanced the historical shooter from Rockstar Games' Red Dead Redemption 2, which had the biggest opening weekend in entertainment history in October and has already sold 17 million copies

The newfound optimism in the title is a stark contrast to analyst views just a few months ago when it was predicted the game would be a "serious disappointment." While analysts do concede that review scores are not necessarily indicative of how well a game might sell, the favorable critical response is a positive sign for EA.