Electronic Arts doesn't seem to have much faith in its Titanfall franchise any more, which is a shame for developer Respawn Entertainment. While several games got prominent play at EA Play's 2017 press conference, not a word was uttered about the popular mech game, despite the fact that a new free DLC pack was on the horizon and more are planned. It's as if EA sees Titanfall franchise as a titanic bust and is deliberately treating the critically acclaimed sequel as robota non grata.
Respawn appeared to be doing everything right for the sequel, at least in the eyes of fans. It was now offering a single-player campaign and the game was coming to PS4 as well this time instead of just PC and Xbox One. It was even revealed that all content after launch would be free. Things looked promising.
Right before E3 and EA Play last year, however, EA took the wraps off Battlefield 1, the next installment in EA's pride-and-joy franchise. It gave it an October 21 launch date, which fit comfortably into the holiday season. But the first inkling of a problem showed up a few weeks later when EA's Blake Jorgensen made an off-the-cuff comment at a financial seminar that Titanfall 2 would be coming within three weeks of Battlefield 1.
The problem was immediately apparent to some: it isn't good for competing franchises with similar audiences to come so close to each other, much less from the same publisher. Consumers with limited incomes have to decide which to buy, and pitting them against each other ran the risk of making one a loser of that bout.
EA's intentions seemed to become even more clear when the official launch date was revealed to be October 28, one week after BF1. To make matters worse, that date was sandwiched in between BF1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Activision's futuristic take on its flagship franchise, which had previously been pegged to a November 4 launch. The reasoning was never made clear as to why EA execs chose that date, but Titanfall 2 producer Drew McCoy said the date "was locked in a long time ago and there was no changing it."
Despite the back-to-back releases, EA publicly felt that Titanfall 2 would do strong sales because of its multiplatform offerings, but by the time the game launched, analysts were already predicting poor sales. "We suspect EA believed that by launching two shooters next to Call of Duty it could put a large dent in its biggest competitor, but instead EA appears to have wound up shooting its own foot off," one analyst said.
Less than three weeks after launch, and ahead of Black Friday sales, Walmart had already dropped the price of the game in half to $30. But EA continued to be unwavering in its launch timing decision. "It's not about the first day of sales or the first week of sales, it's about the long run," Jorgensen said at a business conference.
Respawn CEO Vince Zampella tried to put a brave face on the situation, saying the game was a "huge success" with critics. Indeed, it scored well in its Shacknews review and made our list of top 10 games for 2016. He said Respawn wanted to tell more of the story behind the game, but wouldn't commit to a Titanfall 3, turning instead to the EA rep in the room for some reinforcement. "What we've said is we're committed to the franchise," EA rep Devin Bennett said at the time. "Whatever the f*ck that means." Zampella responded in obvious frustration.
Despite the lack of any public push from EA, Respawn has continued to run out its free updates as promised. Since launch, the game has had five pieces of DLC, and currently has more than a million active players each month. And more DLC is still in the works for the coming months. In all, more than 20 million players have tried Titanfall or Titanfall 2. With numbers like that, you would expect EA blast out a press release. Instead, those numbers were confined to the latest update in the Titanfall 2 blog.
EA Play 2017 showed off a host of games, many of them core to EA's library. However, when NBA Live 2018 gets show time, but Titanfall 2 DLC coming within two weeks can't even get a mention, it raises the question of whether the Titanfall brand has any future with the publisher. We reached out to EA to ask why Titanfall 2 was not part of the EA Play presentation, but have yet to get an official response.
Jorgensen has said in the past that Titanfall and Respawn are part of EA's plans for "many years to come," but as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Right now EA's actions are all lip service and very little actual support for the popular developer and franchise.