This article was updated on February 20 with a new section containing a more detailed account of the meeting. The article's conclusion was also modified.
Speaking to employees during an internal "town hall" meeting, an EA executive allegedly attributed some of Battlefield 2042's negative reception to the surprise launch of Halo Infinite's free-to-play multiplayer, which dropped on Steam at around the same time. Xfire's account of the meeting states that EA acknowledged several reasons for the shooter's poor performance, but the notion that the company might have attributed Battlefield 2042's shortcomings to Halo's success quickly became the subject of repudiation and internet mockery.
"DICE and EA are blaming everything but themselves for this dumpster fire of a game," reads the title of one Reddit post, which links to an IGN article about the report. EA says that the meeting is being mischaracterized.
"These stories are not accurately capturing the discussion and the context, which was an in-depth and very humble internal conversation about the recent Battlefield launch," EA communications VP John Reseburg said in a statement sent to PC Gamer. "It was about key learnings and actions we are taking, not blaming external factors."
According to Xfire's account of the meeting, EA outlined a number of reasons for Battlefield 2042's poor reception. Aside from challenges related to working from home during the pandemic, those reasons included bugs, performance issues, and design decisions. EA said roughly the same things to investors a couple weeks ago.
The Halo Infinite comment is new, however. In Xfire's words, EA chief operating officer Laura Miele said that comparisons between the games didn't go in EA's favor because "Halo Infinite was a very polished title whereas Battlefield 2042 contained bugs and wasn't as polished." That is true: Although it was lambasted for its battle pass, Halo Infinite was not considered buggy compared to Battlefield 2042, which was heavily criticized for its technical properties.
PC Gamer has now heard a recording of the portion of EA's meeting during which Halo is mentioned. The source of the recording asked to remain anonymous.
As Tom Henderson at Xfire stated, a voice reportedly belonging to EA COO Laura Miele describes Battlefield 2042's launch from the publisher's perspective, saying that signs were positive on the weekend of the early special edition release: The game was "stable," initial critical reception was positive, and day-to-day player retention "looked strong."
However, "things started to turn" after that weekend, says the voice.
"The following Monday, Halo did a surprise release of their multiplayer mode, and their game was very polished," the speaker says. "It was a small segment of the game, but it was very polished, and it was not a favorable comparison to our experience given some of the bugs and polish issues we had."
The speaker goes on to list aspects of Battlefield 2042 that players took issue with, saying that the PC performance cap "was very upsetting to core PC players" and that player feedback encompassed "three key areas." The clip ends just before the speaker elaborates on those areas.
With regard to the technical state of BF2042 at launch, Xfire says that "Miele acknowledged that player expectations have changed when it comes to live service games and that it wasn't the right choice to remain anchored to the company's standards in comparison to previous DICE games."
As for what EA and DICE plan to do about it, they've previously announced that they're pushing back Battlefield 2042's first season to focus on additions such as VOIP, bug fixes, and other changes. DICE will also try out a new "feedback loop," posting information about planned changes and the reasoning behind them, observing the subsequent conversation, and then updating its plan and sharing why. Among the topics it will bring to the table are specialist design and the design of future maps, two heavily-criticized aspects of Battlefield 2042. One of those new maps will come with the first season, which after the delay is now scheduled for early summer.
I still think Battlefield 2042 is fun, but at risk of sounding like Grampa Simpson, my definition of fun might not be enough for today's Battlefield fans: Back in the early 2000s, I was entertained for months by the Battlefield 1942 demo alone, and that was a janky-ass game which only included the Wake Island map. Now you can fly around in a cool wingsuit and everyone's saying it sucks. Well, times change.
In any case, I'm not sure the evidence here supports the idea that EA was 'blaming' Halo for Battlefield's woes. It sounded to me like the speaker was using a narrative device to establish a timeline and summarize competitive analysis in a meeting that was, and needed to be, similar to the recent publicly-broadcast investors call. If the speaker intended to say that Halo was the sole or primary cause of negative Battlefield 2042 feedback, they probably wouldn't have immediately cited reasons tangential to it. It also wouldn't make sense to delay Battlefield 2042's first season and promise feedback-driven changes if its main problem was that it was compared to Halo three months ago.
What Microsoft does with Halo or any other game is outside of EA's control, so any effective response must involve EA changing its own standards and practices. What matters now is whether Miele and EA's other leaders will alter the company's practices in the right ways according to disappointed Battlefield fans, the developers it employs, and its investors—and in what ways those perspectives will and won't align.
It does seem like EA is in the process of making significant changes to how it handles Battlefield—Respawn boss Vince Zampella was recently put in charge of the series—but those changes were in motion well before Battlefield 2042 launched.
If you're a former or current EA employee who'd like to share your perspective, you can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.