With 7.3 million copies of “Battlefield 5” sold in Electronic Arts’ third quarter, it missed the company’s predictions by about a million, a stumble caused by bad marketing and a need to delay the game to make it better, EA president Andrew Wilson said during an earnings call on Tuesday.
“If I think about ‘Battlefield 5’ more holistically, I think we did not do a great job of building momentum early in the project,” he said. “And I think about this not just in the context of development but I think about this in the context about broader execution against the entire campaign. Our launch didn’t resonate strongly as we would have liked it to with players and we were never truly able to catch-up and as our competitors continued to build momentum whether that was ‘Fortnite’ or ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ or ‘Call of Duty.'”
That marketing problem, combined with a need to shift the game back, ultimately dampened the game’s performance, Wilson said.
“A combination of a poor start in our marketing campaign together with what I think was a longer development cycle that put us into a more competitive window and the amplification that competitive window against some of those underperformance factors is how we resulted in ‘Battlefield,'” he said.
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The missteps behind “Battlefield 5’s” low sales led to EA having “far more real conversations early on” during its recently completed annual publishing and marketing meeting. Wilson said that EA has gone back and built a formal process around how to find a game’s creative center that they’re calling “reason to play.” He said that chief marketing officer Chris Bruzzo has restructured the entire approach to marketing EA’s games from the inception of game development to the full campaign around that concept. The company also developed a “creative council” to strengthen their “creative decision making,” Wilson said.
“You should expect that we will be more innovative and more creative around both marketing campaigns and how we bring games to market and more diligent in our operation against execution of the project plans around development of video games going forward,” he said. “I mean, it’s something we are taking very seriously across the full landscape of development.”
Wilson later went on to note that “Titanfall 2” also struggled with a marketing problem.
“When we go back and analyze what happened with ‘Battlefield 5’ and ‘Titanfall 2,’ I think we failed to come to a true creative center of a campaign that was compelling for players,” he said. “And we spent too long getting to that point. And by the time we got to launch and we didn’t have that creative center for the campaign, we had lost ground against competitors.”
The global marketing meeting took place just last week, possibly around the same time that EA was contending with numerous early leaks around its surprise game announcement for Respawn. “Apex Legends,” a shooter set in the “Titanfall” universe, but without the oversized mechs, was unveiled during a two-day press and influencer event in L.A. Prior to the embargo lifting, a number of influencers seemed to leak all of the details around the game.
Despite that leak, or perhaps because of it, “Apex Legends” had a tremendous roll-out, with 2.5 million people downloading the free-to-play game in the first day.