“Battlefield 2042”, its developers at Dice and its publisher, EA, has been harshly criticized by gamers for its buggy state and lack of industry-standard features since its release in November 2021. Some crucial numbers assess the game state. Start with 4,500, which is the average number of players for “Battlefield 2042” over the past 30 days. If that number seems low for one of last year’s most anticipated games, it is. On February 16, the title ranked 223rd on the Steam charts for active players, well behind “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3,” released in 2015. In fact, in the past 30 days, “Battlefield 2042” had fewer average players. than those currently playing 2018’s “Battlefield V” (12,900) or even 2016’s “Battlefield 1” (5,409).
Another insightful number is 203,872, which is the total number of signatures for a Change.org petition demanding that owners of the game on all platforms be allowed to be refunded.
It’s the backdrop for revisiting the game now, to see what progress has been made since its buggy release in November. Three months later, “Battlefield 2042” has made little headway, and EA and Dice have veered into the awkward position occupied by CD Projekt Red after its disastrous “Cyberpunk 2077” rollout. Instead of rolling out new game modes, features, and content over the last quarter, the priority has been to make sure the game just works. In fact, it’s been such a focal point, Dice has announced that its “Season One” content, which was originally slated to drop in March, won’t begin until “early summer 2022.”
Indeed, the main story around “Battlefield 2042” is one of cautionary tale, with players throwing justified criticism at the game’s bugs, its fundamental design, and the decision to release the game in such poor shape. Have things improved in the game since launch? Yes. There seem to be fewer bugs. An error message no longer fills the top right corner of the title screen every time I load up on PlayStation 5. Playing around 10 hours over the past two weeks, I haven’t once encountered the issue in which of the downed teammates who cut through a wall or other object could not be revived.
But my experience was far from perfect. During the second round of a session, my loadout selection screen went invisible. Then in the trick all my uploads went back to their defaults without any of the attachments I had selected. Players would freeze halfway through as if they had been turned into a statue. The missile lock reticle for the anti-aircraft launcher still locks and disappears.
When I first reviewed the game, I noted that bugs were only part of the problem. There was also a very fundamental issue that the game just wasn’t fun to play. Three months later, that still holds true. Perhaps due to the amount of attention required to fix bugs, there haven’t been many changes that significantly improve the level of enjoyment.
It’s perhaps best summed up this way: I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alone playing a multiplayer game. Yes, much of that sentiment stems from the continued lack of in-game voice chat. But other methods of communication seem worthless. It’s rare for one of my teammates to respond to a request made using the ping wheel. And the text chat inevitably and predictably turns into one player raging at his teammates for “git gud”, while another cheers them on and a third’s diplomatic efforts fail after reminding everyone that ” guys, it’s just a game.”
In a way, I am grateful for these exchanges. At least I know there are other living souls on the server with me. Whenever I try to load into a PlayStation-only lobby, the excessive wait times to fill up the server make me wonder if anyone else on the PlayStation Network is still playing this game.
Also, it is impossible to meet and connect with a cohesive group of teammates in “Battlefield 2042”. There is no easy way to talk to them. And if I can’t talk to them, what reason do I have to send someone a friend request or try to team up with them? I have no way of knowing anything about them. They could be a toxic moron. Not knowing anything about them, why would I add them to my PlayStation Party or Discord?
And that contributes to the biggest problem “Battlefield 2042” faces. There are worse things than bugs and player outrage, and that’s player apathy. My fellow gamers (most of whom I’ve met on the in-game chat) and I will complain endlessly about aspects of “Call of Duty: Warzone.” From cheats to poor beeps, we mock the state of the game with surprising frequency. But we still get along and play regularly because we enjoy each other’s company and we can all play “Warzone.” Playing “Battlefield 2042” right now is not a common experience. And when the game was designed and marketed for the hugely dedicated Battlefield community, that’s a big deal.
Henderson’s article reporting the town hall noted that “Battlefield 2042’s bug count ratio has reached ‘historic highs for a dice game'” and that EA and Dice were aware of but felt they were in within acceptable margins based on previous versions of Dice. The belief was that the studio, which had skillfully righted the ship after previous titles’ rocky launches, could get the job done on the fly.
In a statement to The Washington Post discussing the town hall reports, EA VP of Communications John Reseburg called it “an in-depth and very humble internal conversation about the recent launch of Battlefield. It was all about key learnings and actions we’re taking, without blaming external factors. It’s good that EA and Dice are assessing what went wrong around “Battlefield 2042” and that the developers are working to improve it. But I hope no one loses sight of the biggest problem of all.The initial decision to fix a faulty game after release – especially during the holiday season, when developers traditionally take a needed break – shows no respect. “Sell it, then fix it” is a recipe for disaster for any product, and that’s exactly what’s been concocted with “Battlefield 2042.”
Ironically, in Henderson’s town hall report, another game popped up during the discussion: “Halo Infinite,” which impressed gamers with its sheer amount of finishes when it was released shortly after “Battlefield 2042” launched. The irony is that “Halo Infinite” was delayed for a year after fans complained about how the game looked. The decision, which at the time stripped the Xbox Series X of an exclusive launch title top-tier, seems to have been good for Microsoft and 343 Industries, the game’s publisher and developer.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. It’s cliché, but that’s because it’s true. The first impression of “Battlefield 2042” was not good. In fact, the title of our original review directly stated that the game “should have been delayed”. According to Steam Charts, it debuted with a peak viewership of over 100,000 players. Three months later, they are less than 5,000 to play on average. With “Season One” only starting in “early summer,” I can’t help but wonder how many players will stick around to see if “Battlefield 2042” deserves a second chance.