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Xbox Game Pass gives Battlefield 2042 a second chance it doesn't deserve

Warzone 2 is here to keep all the FPS fanatics entertained – but there's another, lesser-enjoyed game coming back around. But is it worth it?

Xbox Game Pass should take a lot of credit for thrusting games back into the conversation. For both Marvel's Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, a late arrival on Game Pass managed to (partially) salvage their reputations, and reversed player sentiment on them, too. You could even argue that Halo Infinite is in the middle of its own redemption arc right now; a year after launch, and 343 Industries' troubled shooter is starting to see some wayward player numbers return.

Outriders had it slightly differently; it launched onto the service from the off, which seemed to help player numbers (in the first few weeks, anyway). The lesson here? Xbox Game Pass is a great tool that developers and publishers can use to wrench investment and attention back onto their games – especially when there's a history that said developer wants to overcome. And can you think of any better example of that in recent memory than DICE's unloveable Battlefield 2042?

This was almost a year ago. Things are better today, but are they good enough?

Battlefield 2042 recently launched its third season of content, and with that, it also joined the base EA Play line-up. Anyone subscribed to the service can now play it, which also means it’s available for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and PC Game Pass members.

But is that enough to bring new players to Battlefield 2042? Is it even the right time?

We’ve seen plenty of games get big boosts from joining Game Pass later in their life cycles. Even when they don’t become the service’s most talked-about, or actively played, Game Pass has proven to be a lifeline to what could otherwise be dead games.

Marvel’s Avengers is a recent example that comes to mind. After joining the service, it shot up to Xbox’s top ten most played games. The narrative changed from all the doom and gloom, and Steam Charts number watching to one that’s more hopeful about the future of the game.

If you don’t keep up with Marvel’s Avengers news, you may be surprised to learn that it continues to receive updates and fresh content to this day. The Winter Soldier, the game’s next hero, arrives tomorrow. Some of that renewed support has to be connected to the player count (and interest) boost brought on by the addition to Game Pass.

It’s about the closest thing to getting free-to-play-like boosts without actually making the game free-to-play. Players have long suggested the free-to-play route as an option, but Square Enix never listened. Game Pass effectively acts as a revolving door, letting new and returning players in as veterans leave for other games; only to later return to play the new content.

Avengers’ ongoing money-making opportunities don’t lie in continued sales, and you could argue that they never have. The real money is made on microtransactions, of which the game has plenty. This is what most publishers hope will happen when they put their ongoing multiplayer games on Game Pass, or turn them free-to-play outright.

Everyone dunked on Avengers, but it's been quietly growing since joining Game Pass.

Just like Avengers, many debated whether making Battlefield 2042 free-to-play would achieve a similar effect. The game’s Steam numbers recover whenever a new season arrives, but they never reach launch heights. Meanwhile, every other Battlefield on Steam keeps overtaking 2042 whenever they go on sale.

Surely Battlefield 2042 could do the same if it dropped to a similar price or was available to players without the initial charge somehow. Enter Game Pass/EA Play. The basic tier of EA’s subscription service is typically reserved for back catalogue titles.

EA essentially uses it to give value to games that no longer sell in any meaningful numbers. It’s where last year’s sports games live, EA Originals and so on.

Whether or not EA would like to admit it, Battlefield 2042 has reached that point in its life. It’s a game that’s likely exhausted all its sales potential, so it’s time to offer it to a new audience.

But the key question remains, are there enough of those people on the fence who were just waiting for a similar moment to jump in? I don’t believe so, for a couple of reasons.

Pictured: a Battlefield game Battlefield fans actually want to play.

Firstly, as proven by the continued success of classic Battlefield games, core fans and newcomers don’t just like a good deal – they like classic Battlefield. Whether by choice or technical limitations, Battlefield 2042 is missing much of what made the last few games special.

I could go on about the very specific things that each of the past few games did wrong, some are so severe they pushed me away. But I am guaranteed a Battlefield experience in each one of them, in the same way a Call of Duty player knows the next one will have killstreaks.

Battlefield 2042 may have combined arms combat, but its maps are drab, lifeless, unnecessarily vast, and the lack of destruction exposes all of those problems even more. You can’t play it like a class shooter, because it doesn’t have classes. Yet it’s not entirely an arcade shooter, either. It’s the worst parts of Battlefield co-dependency, and the worst parts of Apex Legends’ hero-driven gameplay combined.

Then there’s the issue of timing. Battlefield 2042 is meant to be introducing the class system back into the game sometime early next year, effectively turning it into, well, a Battlefield game.

Whenever that update arrives would have been better timing for the EA Play/Game Pass move. ‘Battlefield 2042 has brought back one more thing it didn’t launch with. Come on back, everybody’ is a compelling pitch. Not so much right now.

Don’t get me wrong, 2042 is absolutely better today than it was even just two or three months ago, but there’s only so much fixing you can do to get around fundamental design problems.

The arrival of classes would be the first major overhaul to attempt that impossible task. Even if it fails, it would have made for a good talking point and a reason for new/returning players to jump in.

Of course, this could still happen, seeing as the game will be on Game Pass then, too, but how many will really do that when 2023 is looking unbelievably stacked with highly anticipated games?

Everyone is talking about Warzone 2.0 right now, including Battlefield fans.

The news also arrived smack dab in the middle of Call of Duty season. If you’re not hooked on the traditional multiplayer, there’s the free-to-play Warzone 2.0, and DMZ for those who would rather avoid the $70 buy-in.

Modern Warfare 2 also happens to be an Infinity Ward game, a studio whose games traditionally attract the largest number of Battlefield refugees. I should know, I’m one of them.

I really question how many people would dump the hot new thing everyone is playing and take a few hours to decide whether Battlefield 2042 is worth getting into today, but maybe one day.

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