Despite the well-documented troubles with Battlefield 2042, Electronic Arts said today that it remains "all-in on Battlefield (opens in new tab)," and announced that a new studio called Ridgeline Games, headed by Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto, will be developing an all-new campaign "set in the Battlefield universe."
Lehto joined EA (opens in new tab) in October 2021 after his Disintegration project, developed at his first post-Halo studio V1 Interactive, failed to take off. EA said at the time that the new studio Lehto was leading would be "focused on developing first-person shooters," although no further details were revealed. Today's announcement gives a clearer sense of what that group is focused on.
"Marcus will bring his long legacy of creating fascinating worlds and gripping narratives to Battlefield," Battlefield general manager Byron Beede said in today's announcement. "Backed by a world-class team, he’ll be leading the charge to develop a narrative campaign set in the Battlefield universe that will engage fans in new and exciting ways while remaining true to the classic elements of the series."
The announcement cements what was already known courtesy of a July job listing revealing that Lehto's studio, then unnamed, is working on a singleplayer Battlefield campaign. It wasn't clear at the time whether the campaign would be a mode within a larger, multiplayer-focused Battlefield game, or something entirely standalone, but the mere fact that it was happening came as good news. The absence of singleplayer action was hardly Battlefield 2042's only problem (or its most pressing) but it was definitely felt.
EA clarified on Twitter that Ridgeline's campaign will not be a part of Battlefield 2042.
For clarification: The new narrative campaign experience @RidgelineGames is working on is not part of #Battlefield 2042. It will be set in the Battlefield universe.September 8, 2022
Ridgeline's campaign is just one part of what Beede described as "a global effort, coordinating multiple studios under a leadership team of industry veterans to build a connected Battlefield universe." Original Battlefield studio DICE will continue to develop the game's multiplayer portion, while Ripple Effect Studios, formerly known as DICE LA, "is focused on creating an entirely new Battlefield experience that will complement and build upon the series’ foundations."
"The next generation of Battlefield creators is a global team of talented, hungry individuals dedicated to taking the series to new heights," Beede said. "This team includes veterans who have worked on the series for years as well as new talent from the industry, all of whom bring years of experience working across incredible titles to the Battlefield universe."
Respawn Entertainment co-founder Vince Zampella, who became head of the series (opens in new tab) in December 2021, said the move demonstrates that EA is committed to the long-term future of Battlefield.
"With Marcus and his team at Ridgeline Games joining the world-class global team we have already in place, Battlefield is in the strongest position to succeed," Zampella said.
One of the longest-serving veterans on the Battlefield series won't be around to help with the effort, however: Creative director Lars Gustavsson (opens in new tab), whose credits on the series stretch back 20 years to the original Battlefield 1942, is leaving the studio. Gustavsson's departure comes less than a year after that of former DICE general manager Oskar Gabrielson.
"Creative Director Lars Gustavsson, who has been with the franchise since the beginning and is affectionately known as Mr Battlefield, has decided he is ready for a new adventure. We would like to thank him for his invaluable experience, expertise, and friendship for all these years," Beede said.
"Lars has dedicated a substantial portion of his life to Battlefield and is proud to have helped shape the franchise into what it is today. He is excited to pass the baton to the next generation of Battlefield creators at DICE, Ripple Effect, Industrial Toys, and Ridgeline Games."
The move to a multi-studio effort bears echoes of the system employed to great success by Activision on the Call of Duty series. Development of the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (opens in new tab), for instance, is being led by Infinity Ward, with support from Activision Central Design, Activision QA, Activision Shanghai, Beenox, Demonware, High Moon Studios, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, and Treyarch. Call of Duty, which features a singleplayer campaign, conventional multiplayer modes, and a live-service battle royale, is simply too big for one (or even two) studios to handle, and it seems clear that EA aspires to similar heights for Battlefield.
The good news for Battlefield fans is that EA's persistence appears to be paying off: Season 2 recently kicked off and the response so far seems generally positive—or at least cautiously hopeful—and there's been a real uptick in player numbers on Steam as well, from an average concurrent player count of fewer than 2,000 in May to more than 5,700 (opens in new tab) over the past 30 days: Still far from a real hit, but definite movement in the right direction.