First, the bad news: EA is delaying Dragon Age Inquisition until November 18 and Battlefield Hardline into sometime next year. Second, the--actually, there's no bad news here. All of this is good. Necessary, even.
Some context for why this is the case: A few months back, we argued that the EAs and Activisions of the world could learn a lot from Ubisoft's decision to delay Watch Dogs by six months. Pushing the game back was a bold move, as it meant missing out on holiday sales and the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One. But in the name of quality (or necessity, considering the vast gulf that separates success from failure in the AAA space), Ubisoft bit the bullet. That extra time undoubtedly made for a better game, and Watch Dogs went on to break many of Ubisoft's sales records. Now EA seems to be making a similar, and equally smart, move.
The Dragon Age news is small fry, as a month-long delay means a few extra weeks for smoothing out some rough edges. Nothing major here. But then there's Battlefield Hardline. As with Ubisoft's Watch Dogs delay, EA's decision to push Hardline into next year could mean the difference between success and failure. The biggest issue at hand is that EA can't afford for Hardline to be a bust, which could cause permanent damage to one of its biggest franchises. For Hardline to live up to the Battlefield name, it must, in my mind, overcome two problems: a lack of identity, and a fear of instability.
Yes, Hardline is all about huge cops-vs-robbers encounters, complete with levolution, vehicles, etc. But take a quick look at forum threads and website comments regarding Hardline, and you'll see folks cynically describing it as a reskinned version of Battlefield 4, or a glorified Battlefield 4 mod. The reality, of course, is that this is a new game from a new team. Its multiplayer modes are in line with the game's themes, but it needs some stand-out features to separate it from its predecessor.
Here, Visceral seems to be looking to Battlefield die-hards. According to an official statement from Karl Magnus Troedsson, DICE VP and group GM, Visceral plans on "adding some new feature ideas direct from the community." Again, this does suggest that even from a feature standpoint, Hardline needs some fixing up before it's ready to release. If fan feedback assists in the creation of some genuinely interesting features that makes playing it a distinct experience, it'll be better for it.
Then there's the issue of stability. I love me some Battlefield 4, but many players still report experiencing tons of bugs eight months after its release. If Hardline follows in its big brother's footsteps, that's bad news for EA's damage control team. With a month of beta testing under its belt, the developers at Visceral must have a good idea of what things need immediate attention. And judging by the length of the delay, there are a good many of them to address.
And that's OK. With the announcement of this delay, EA has made it quite clear that--at least in the case of a Battlefield title--it's willing to to shift deadlines so long as doing so results in a better game. Hopefully with the newfound time, Visceral can make the most out of everything it learned from Hardline's beta.
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