Sony says ‘Battlefield’ is outmatched by ‘Call of Duty’ – is that true?

Sony makes a fair point, but let's not paint 'Battlefield' as a plucky underdog

This Week In Games is a weekly column that tackles gaming’s biggest stories. This week, Andy Brown examines whether Sony is right in claiming Battlefield “can’t keep up” with Call of Duty.

Corporations are usually keen to harp on about how infinitely superior they are to their rivals, but in Sony’s fight to prevent Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard, it’s been anything but. Since it was announced, Microsoft has admitted that many of PlayStation’s first-party games boast “better quality” than Xbox’s, while Sony has painted the PS5 as dependent on Activision Blizzard’s titles.

It’s been a long, tiring spat – and the U.S. Government looks likely to intervene – but ultimately, it boils down to Sony worrying that once Microsoft purchases Activision Blizzard, Xbox will take its multi-billion ball home and take some of gaming’s biggest franchises away from PlayStation. To be more specific, Sony is concerned that Microsoft taking Call of Duty away from PlayStation would prove dire for the console – though under the watchful eye of regulators, it’s something Microsoft promises, it would never, ever do. Why would they? Call of Duty makes them millions on the PlayStation.

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However, the most interesting part of this week’s back-and-forth has been Sony’s claim that nobody has the “resources or expertise” to match Call of Duty. That includes EA – in comments made to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, Sony wrote off the publisher’s Battlefield series as being unable to “keep up” with Call of Duty.

Battlefield 2042 bad reviews
Battlefield 2042. Credit: EA.

It sounds harsh, but Sony has a point: as of last year, Call of Duty had sold over 400million games, while Battlefield‘s sales sat at 88.7million. You’ve also got to consider Call of Duty‘s juggernaut status – it’s a series that is a cultural touchstone for even the most casual gamers, and its popularity ensures that everyone and their nan has at least heard of the series. Battlefield, which is still one of the biggest franchises in gaming, can’t make that same claim.

As a brand, Call of Duty seems every bit as insurmountable as Sony claims – but as a game? It’s not so clear-cut. Battlefield has always been about offering larger-scale and more layered multiplayer, while Call of Duty tends to focus more on rapid-fire matches and smaller team sizes. Though they’re both first-person shooters, each series caters to slightly different tastes – Call of Duty is infinitely easier to drop into a match and switch off for a bit, while Battlefield‘s more involved game modes mean they’re far more satisfying to win.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Credit: Activision.
‘Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’. CREDIT: Activision

It’s also worth pointing out that EA isn’t the meek underdog that Sony paints it as – the company’s expects to pull in around £6.2billion ($7.6billion) by next March, and 88.7million sales are still…a hell of a lot of sales. Though last year’s Battlefield was a crushing disappointment, don’t let your recency bias cloud your judgement – plenty of Battlefield games have no trouble standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Call of Duty, and let’s not forget that Call of Duty has had plenty of its own stinkers.

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Furthermore, while EA was presumably too busy calling its fans “milkshake brain” to respond to Sony’s put-down, it’s clear the company is ramping up to make something bigger out of Battlefield. In September, the publisher marked Battlefield‘s 20th anniversary by asserting its commitment to “unlocking [Battlefield‘s] potential as one of the best first-person shooter franchises in the world” – and distinguished this from the usual corporate speak by revealing it had roped in some of the world’s biggest FPS developers to create a “connected Battlefield universe.”

Battlefield 2042 call of duty
Battlefield 2042. Credit: EA

It wasn’t long after that EA CEO Andrew Wilson weighed in on Microsoft’s acquisition, describing Call of Duty becoming an Xbox exclusive as a “tremendous opportunity” for Battlefield. In terms of quality, there’s no doubt that EA has the developer talent (and just as importantly – the cash) to create a shooter capable of filling Call of Duty‘s hypothetical void. It’s also clear that despite what Sony thinks, EA sees room to give Activision Blizzard’s shooter some pitched competition.

Yes, Call of Duty leaving PlayStation would hit Sony hard. Additionally, an acquisition of this size absolutely reduces competition – which is worse for everyone, gamers included. Yet when it comes to Sony’s thoughts on Battlefield, a skeptical eye may just see a company holding the world’s smallest violin.

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