Attack of the Fanboy

Battlefield 4 vs Call of Duty Ghosts: May the best marketing win

by William Schwartz


This fall Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts and EA’s Battlefield 4 will square off for round two in the battle for shooter supremacy.  2011 saw a huge push from EA with their Battlefield franchise, and it appears that Activision is anticipating for Battlefield 4 to once again steal market share from Call of Duty: Ghosts, or at least try to.  Activision is bracing for turbulent times, citing increased competition.  As a result, the company issued a warning to investors about their future profit potential during a recent investor conference call.

While we don’t know much about the new features in each game, recent comments from Activision Publishing executive, Eric Hirshberg,  explained to investors that the company will be throwing a massive marketing budget at the new entry in the long-running Call of Duty franchise.

Ghosts will be supported by one of the largest sales and marketing plans in history

“We plan to continue building Call of Duty momentum with Call of Duty: Ghosts,” said Hirshberg.  “Ghosts will be available for next-gen platforms and will be supported by one of the largest sales and marketing plans in the brand’s history.”  From a sales perspective, nothing has been coming close to outselling Call of Duty in recent years, but 2011 saw it closest competitor yet with DICE’s Battlefield 3.  If you’ll recall, the marketing messages from EA in 2011 continually called Call of Duty’s quality to task, and repeatedly took shots at the competition throughout the year leading up to release.

We’ve yet to see anything like that, just yet.  But who knows what Activision’s big marketing plans will entail, and whether they plan to take the gloves off against the competition or not.  Last go round, Activision wasn’t really the company that was instigating the conversation about which game was better.  It was mostly talk in interviews from developers, executives, and of course, the fans.  With both Microsoft’s Next Generation announcement slated for May 21st and E3 2013 less than a month away, we’ll likely be hearing much more about the two games very shortly.    These marketing messages are about to kick off, and it will be interesting to see which direction the companies will take their brands heading into a new era of the PlayStation 4 and Next Xbox.

The reveal of Battlefield 4 in March saw a record number of users watch the 17 minute trailer of single player gameplay titled “Fishing in Baku”, and Activision saw significant interest when launching the Call of Duty: Ghosts reveal teaser earlier this month as well.  If anything, it’s indicative of the continued demand for first-person military shooters, and it doesn’t look like their popularity is waning as the sun sets on a generation that was dominated by them.   If Hirshberg’s comments are any indication, we could be in for quite the spectacle leading up to the launch of both games.  Activision and EA have proven that they have no qualms about promoting their games in interesting ways, outside of the traditional advertising you see on television, print, and online.  2011 saw the first Call of Duty XP Event in California, a convention dedicated exclusively to Call of Duty and the launch of Modern Warfare 3.  While Battlefield didn’t have anything of that magnitude, we’ll see if Activision’s massive budget will force their hand to do something new for the franchise.

As for quality.  We can only look at the outcome of 2011 to predict the future.  While Actvision may be bracing their shareholders for a bumpy ride, these warnings apply to much more than just Call of Duty and its increased competition from EA.  2011 saw Call of Duty go on to outsell Battlefield 3 by many millions of copies, but it was a win for EA too.  The company sold more copies of Battlefield 3 than any other game in the franchise, and lets not forget about the Season Pass which they’ve also said was a huge success.  As for the critics, they were a mixed bag, but across the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms, the median score for both games saw Battlefield 3 edging out Call of Duty by a single point, due to a poorly received PC version of Activision’s shooter.

When the dust settles, it appears that the competition is good for both companies.  If 2011 taught us anything, it’s that there’s more than enough demand for two blockbuster military shooters to arrive within days of each other.  If the millions of eager fans that have logged in to check out these reveal trailers suggest anything, it’s that this year it shouldn’t be any different.

You May Like