A known EA leaker has claimed that amid the game’s poor sales, EA is considering making Battlefield 2042’s Portal mode free-to-play.
The claim comes from freelance journalist Tom Henderson, a frequent source of EA leaks and rumors [1, 2, 3, 4] and whose reporting on Battlefield 2042 before it was even announced (and was still speculatively dubbed Battlefield 6) saw his original Twitter account suspended and his videos voluntarily pulled from YouTube as a precaution against potential legal action.
On January 20th, Henderson reported via his personal Twitter account that not only was EA”very disappointed with how Battlefield 2042 has performed”, but that the company was “‘look at all the options’ when it comes to the title.”
“This is including looking at Free to Play in some capacity,” he added.
However, the next day Henderson postponed his reveals, asking his followers to “give me a little more time on this.”
“I’m consulting analysts, lawyers, and developers and it’s taking a bit of time to put it together,” he explained. “I want to provide answers instead of questions.”
A new mode introduced with 2042, Battlefield Portal grants players access to a rotating offering of content from past games, such as Battlefield 1942 or Bad Company 2.
Generally, Portal sees players divided into two teams, one with access to the gear of 2042, and the other with access to the currently available content.
Should the mode go free-to-play, Portal would operate comparatively close to how the free-to-play battle royale Call of Duty: Warzone can be played as either a stand-alone title or as part of either Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War, and Call of Duty: Vanguard.
Eventually, on January 23rd, Henderson posted a YouTube video discussing his claims.
Noting that the additional time he asked for was used to consult with past and current developers, industry analysts involved with prior EA financial calls, and even a lawyer, Henderson explained that the problem plaguing Battlefield 2042 is that they – presumably both EA and developer DICE – “don’t know what they are doing with this game, and I think that’s pretty evident with the lack of communication that we got on this game these past several months.”
“It’s clear that they’re just stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Henderson said, “when it comes to providing updates for the community, and also taking the direction of the game into a direction in which people will be happy with.”
Battlefield 2042 has been criticized in reviews for feeling more like a “hero shooter” than a Battlefield title, the lack of features from prior games, and its many gameplay inhibiting bugs and glitches [1, 2]. It currently stands as the worst rated entry in the series’ history, 14th worst rated game on Steam, and holds an average 2 out of 10 from users on Metacritic [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
The game lost 70% of its Steam playerbase just two weeks after launch, and since then, relationship the developer and the fans who chose to remained have only continued to fracture.
In fact, Steam even began offering refunds for Battlefield 2042 outside of their regular window, granting them to plays who played the game more than two hours or owned it for more than 14 days, because the game was so buggy.
Some players even reported that they spent that two-hour period fiddling with the game’s options in a vain attempt to get it to work.
According to Henderson, attempting to resolve all the issues with Battlefield 2042 would take so much work, time, and money, that EA and DICE may ultimately find that it may not be worth doing.
“Some people over at EA are reportedly looking into how they can make Battlefield 2042 free-to-play in some capacity.” he said, pointing out how after his initial tweets he had seen reports that the publisher could be discussing the whole game rather than just Portal mode. “It doesn’t seem like that is the case simply because, well, it would be a PR nightmare when it comes to releasing a game for $60, $70, to $100 in some cases, and then making the game free-to-play just after a few months.”
Henderson proposed that this possibility shows an understanding from EA that the game has flopped and speculated that talks of making any part of the game free-to-play are nothing but a last-ditch attempt to bring players aboard.
“From my understanding they are potentially looking at making Portal free-to-play in some capacity,” he continued, emphasizing that his information seems to be either “very fluid”, changing on a daily basis, or above his source’s pay-grade.
One analyst told Henderson that in EA’s next financial call in February, they expected EA to “beat around the bush” regarding Battlefield 2042, giving similar answers as they did when Battlefield V under-performed, notably that while they were disappointed in the launch, they were confident in the game’s live service model.
When both analysts were asked about the Portal going free-to-play, Henderson stated they both agreed it was “the most likely option;” mainly because this would be EA’s only option to add a free-to-play element to the game.
While the game’s Hazard Zone mode could have been utilized, Henderson revealed that a DICE developer informed him several weeks prior that only a few hundred people – later described as between 300-400 – were playing the mode at any given time across all consoles and PC. This was out of the 40,000 to 50,000 playing the game as a whole at any time.
The analysts also criticized the mode for lacking the depth to make a player buy something – something which they noted Call of Duty: Warzone had succeeded in doing.
As such, Henderson believes that this situation leaves EA with two choices: Either develop a battle royale game that launches “alongside” Battlefield 2042 to or convert an existing game mode.
Henderson then noted that past EA earnings calls had shown that a free-to-play component was planned, which prior leaks claimed was to be Hazard Zone, until EA ultimately decided the mode wouldn’t be able to convert free players into paying ones.
Henderson also addressed how some fans felt this free-to-play mode would not save the game, agreeing with them but asserting that the developers are doing great work to make the game playable despite their lack of communication.
Speaking to lawyer and law firm owner Richard Hoeg, Henderson stated that though fans believe EA scammed them with false advertising, there is nothing the consumer can do, as the developer made few concrete promises about the game and consumers were free to buy the game at a later time.
The analysts were also asked if, even from a moral standpoint, EA would refund players. “Never gonna happen,” they said.
Do you think Battlefield Portal going free-to-play could save the game? Would it be something players want? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments below.