EA/YouTube Battlefield 4 Launch Controversy

ea-logoIf you are a fan of the Battlefield series (and you likely are if you are reading this blog), you are probably aware that Battlefield 4 is thoroughly embroiled in some controversy right now.

The controversies have arisen for a number of reasons, all of which seem to be compounding upon one another. I am going to do my best to share my perspective on it all.

First, there is the launch debacle. I wrote some time ago about BF4 having a rocky launch. In retrospect, that was a bit of an understatement, as the impact of the launch difficulties was deeper and their persistence longer than I initially realized. Three months after launch, players are still experiencing excessive lag spikes, connectivity issues, crashes, and other issues that prevent them from simply playing the game in a reliable manner.  Once a player successfully gets into the game, they are faced with poor hit detection, one-hit kills, significant balancing issues that make the game feel “off” on good days and are downright frustrating on others. DICE has slowly fixed issues over the past three months, but they seem to introduce new issues at the same time.

Is BF4 broken? I guess that depends on your definition, as well as your experience with the game, as the extent of problems seem to be different for everyone. Personally, I cannot say it is, as broken to me means something is currently unusable or not worth using. I can play the game, and I can still have fun doing so. That’s not to say the game is not flawed, however, and my time playing is not without frustrations. In fact, I recently created a video as a way to vent about some issues that occurred on a particularly difficult night.

The next issue is the recent news that EA paid prominent YouTube personalities to create “Battlefield 4 Launch” videos. The most difficult part about this controversy is that there are various versions of it, and it can be difficult to keep the facts straight because so much out there is simply speculation.

Ronku BF4 LaunchWhat we do know is that EA offered a $10 CPM (cost per 1,000 views) to these individuals through its Ronku program. These individuals simply had to create videos about the game with “Battlefield 4 Launch” in the title and include a link to the BF4 site. EA asked that they not focus on glitches in the game, and encouraged a focus on Levolution. Each individual was limited to three videos under the program, and all qualifying videos were limited to a global view cap for the bonus CPM. Videos were made, and people were paid.

The controversy comes to a head because many feel this was a deceptive practice on the part of EA and the YouTubers. This is where the issues crash together, because in all honesty, if the launch had been smoother and not angered such a large portion of the fan base, no one would care that a few people got paid a little extra for their videos showcasing elements of the new game; videos they likely would have made anyway.

Another Battlefield 4 blog has suggested that what the YouTubers and EA have broken FTC regulations and face a risk of fines. I am not a lawyer, so I will not speculate on that as they have. It does seem possible that rules were broken if they failed to disclose that they were being paid by EA. Personally, I would have made sure it was at least in the description that the video was made per an agreement with EA. However, we must remember these are people who are turning a hobby into a business and figuring it out as they go. I can easily see how one could simply think, “if I use this footage to make a video of something I’m already excited about, EA will pay me extra for the views” and not think about the implications of it as a paid endorsement. If this was the case, EA did them a bit of a disservice to not provide guidance. If naive ignorance of FTC rules is the worst these YouTubers did, they certainly do not deserve to burn for it. But, if one cannot forgive, simply unsub and avoid their videos. Defamation seems a bit of an overreaction.

bf4-second-assault-wallpaper4Frankly, EA did an exceptional job of hyping Battlefield 4, and a large portion of the community, including myself, got swept up in the excitement of a new installment in a franchise we love and the vast potential it entailed. The problem with such powerful and effective marketing as EA exhibited is that you have that much farther to fall if your product has flaws as significant as BF4 had at launch. It is exacerbated by the fact that so many of those flaws persist three months later. Such a situation results in many angry customers looking for an outlet for their frustrations and someone to blame. Unfortunately, the rage is so great for some that they blindly latch on to every potential target in their sites, even if friendly. With that level of frustration, rational thought often jumps out the window.

In my opinion, these YouTube personalities are definitely not the ones to blame. They did not make the game what it is, and it is very unlikely they had enough access to the game to know the flaws we would encounter. While these videos did not focus on bugs, as requested by EA (which is a normal and reasonable request, mind you), many of these individuals made videos outside the Ronku program that did discuss game issues.

BoomThe fact remains that EA and DICE made and published a game that did not meet expectations. However, DICE is working madly to remedy that, and I am sure issues will be fixed in time. For those like me that still find the potential of the underlying game fun and engaging, I recommend patience, as fun can be had again once the most significant issues are shored up. Provide constructive feedback to DICE to encourage and help in the repair process. For those who find the game irreparably broken, civilly demand a refund. It is unlikely at this point, but at the least you are making your voice heard. For all, reconsider preorders and launch purchases. Find out if the game bugs are something you can live with before you buy. Anymore, most games do not work properly at launch anyway. Game publishers and developers will not learn from their mistakes if we don’t.

Writing and editing this has taken me some time and thought. After writing a significant portion of this piece, a video was released by ScannerBarkley discussing the EA/YouTube topic, going into greater detail on it than I do here. He was not involved in the Ronku program and provides an exceptional and objective take on the topic. I will embed it below. I strongly encourage everyone reading this to take a moment to watch, or at least listen to, his commentary, and even consider subscribing to his channel if you are a fan of YouTube videos. [Warning: videos contain strong language and brutal honesty]

Josh, aka "Heplinger", is a father, PC gamer, and geek who enjoys the speculation and analysis of Battlefield content, as well as the discussion of the hardware behind it. He is content producer for Heplinger Gaming on YouTube, posting Battlefield and other gaming content.
  • ScreamFace

    The problem is, it seems the core mechanisms of the game is broken. It’s months later and the core mechanics of the game is still broken. So this isn’t little bugs and issues. It has to go to the heart of the game and here’s the thing. DICE seems to always be talking about little things, little bugs and crashes. It is frustrating as hell that sometimes I want to play and have to go through, ‘disconnected from EA online’ about 20 times before I can join.

    It’s annoying the odd crash.

    What is really annoying is the disyncronisation between my machine and the game. Throwing a grenade threw a door way, running back to cover. Then to have that nade explode where I am, not where I threw it. Having people appear around a corner and be instantly dead by them. I play with friends on skype a lot, we can discuss kills, ‘how did I not kill you, i pumped a whole magazine into you with hit markets’ Where as on their end I didn’t even fire or damage them. Just think of all the versions of these things constantly going on. All on low ping local servers.

    Where is DICE on these issues?

    The other core problem is, even if DICE fixed all the bugs and the central laggy core game play mechanics, we have been ripped off. We will never get the BF4 experience we wanted. You provide lee way for bugs on launch. Not for months of it. The fact the game is playable and can be fun even in this state means we’ll never get a true experience of a new BF game that works. It’ll be more like, ‘yeah they fixed BF4, but I’m over it and the maps.’

    Also I guess many of us don’t like this attitude of DICE seeming to not care. For all the, ‘they’re trying to fix it,’ they aren’t trying hard enough and if they can’t fix it already they shouldn’t have released the game. We will forever have not gotten the product we wanted with BF4. DICE should do something to remedy this bad will. Eventually ‘fixing’ the game will not be enough.

    • http://www.battlefieldonmymind.com/ Heplinger

      All good points. I think I have been lucky in that my game has not desyncronized as bad as others (or at least I have not always noticed). Maybe I just chalk it up to being bad at the game. It has not been without troubles, though.

      Assuming the late January/early February patch they are finishing addresses some larger issues and gets the game closer to what would have been an acceptable launch condition, I think it would be safe to say they should have held off launch until February or March of this year, at the least.

      Personally, I won’t feel ripped off if the game’s core issues are addressed soon. Battlefield has been my primary game series for a while now, and will likely continue to be. So long as I am having fun, I will feel that I am getting what I paid for (albeit struggling through some time with it in a different condition than I wished). That is not to say I am not frustrated, but I think what bothers me the most is the lack of accountability and the fact I basically bought in to a 3+ month beta test.

      The thing is, I don’t know what they can do to “remedy this bad will”. All I can think of is accountability; I think it would be a good start if Patrick Bach stepped up to the mic and said, “we eff’d up; it was not ready because we shot for the moon, but did not give ourselves the time and manpower to get there.” Sadly, that does not seem likely. Beyond that, the only thing they really can do is to get through Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge, and any following Battlefield titles without doing this again. So long as the community does not get swept by an amnesia epidemic, every little flaw is going to be more criticized than normal, at least for the next few years.

      I am left wondering what impact the lawsuits against EA have on the apparent attitude from DICE. Are they restricted in how much they can discuss the game’s flaws or admit mistakes? Are they simply too proud to believe it is this bad? I want to believe they still care deeply about the franchise, but I agree their lack of communication and frequent excuses imply a disconnect. One can only hope this brings any disconnected DICE members down to Earth.

      • ScreamFace

        I just want it to be fixed. I want the map packs and that’ll be enough to get me fully engaged in the game. I want the DLC but I guess I know if the core issues are there, it’ll be some fun, not much.

        There’s a reason people play Operation Locker so much, because being a spam fest issues are less noticeable.

        It’s strange I have started playing some BF3 again and one thing that had bugged me is my aim is worse in BF4 than I think it should be. I have even considered maybe I am just getting older. I often just miss, or someone at the last instance is in a different spot. Slight off center. Go back to BF3 , joined a gun mast game about a third to half way through. Got a 12 kill streak off the bat and went on the win the game. It was amazing, i could aim accurately again.

  • Gordon Wood

    I have not bought the game as the same issue happened in B3. It was the same story with B3, tons of bugs at the beginning and connection issues which I still have today. All of which they said they would fix.
    I really wanted to buy the game but knew I would get burnt the same way and it has happened. Now the game is highly discounted and I still don’t know if I want in. I keep watching with the hope that people say all is well.

    • http://www.battlefieldonmymind.com/ Heplinger

      There is supposed to be a big patch coming in the next 2-3 weeks. I see nothing wrong with waiting for that to drop and watching sites like this for feedback on how well the patch does before you buy, even at a discount.