Research firm Cowen & Company have reported this week that Titanfall 2 sales have been well below forecasted figures, with initial projections of 9 million units apparently no longer realistic. Despite Respawn Entertainment’s efforts to rectify the original Titanfall’s shortcomings by incorporating a more fleshed out single player experience, the sequel title is now projected to record a 50% drop in unit sales over its predecessor. And that is very bad news. In fact, it’s an unsustainable downward trend, and merely weeks after its big launch, there’s now a rather grim shadow of doubt about the future of the franchise.
The original Titanfall is a game that came and went almost in the blink of an eye. Upon its release, the hybrid FPS/mech combat was eagerly anticipated as a welcome innovation, and the game was expected to become a mainstay among competitive online shooters. But just as the it began to gain traction as a mainstream IP, Titanfall’s community saw a rapid downswing, eventually evaporating to all but the hardcore. Developer Respawn were left in little doubt over the cause of Titanfall’s demise as critics and fans made their voices heard about the lacklustre single-player offering and generally minimal content.
No small wonder, then, that Respawn has made a big noise about Titanfall 2’s inclusion of a more substantial offering of content. And in the build-up to release they were determined to impress upon us that this wasn’t a case of shoehorning in a generic by the numbers campaign, either. But I’ve not been entirely convinced by the man and sentient mech save the day premise, nor is the 5 or so hour campaign length anything more than a weekend distraction.
Still, though, as single player experience, Titanfall 2 is slick enough as far as contemporary FPS campaigns go. There’s no denying that there are some decent moments of gameplay, especially thanks to some creative use of wall running mechanics and a nice balance between mech and pilot combat.
But did we really need that single player experience? I highly doubt anyone will be rushing out to tell their friends about the campaign, and it’s ultimately another 5 hour blast that won’t live long in the memory. Titanfall 2’s wider scope through the inclusion of a single player mode was supposed to represent a much-improved iteration of the original. But instead, it’s a case of one step forward, two steps backwards for the franchise.
Of course, Titanfall 2’s disappointing sales aren’t as much to do with the nature of its content as much as it is about timing, and that’s entirely on EA. Sandwiching Titanfall 2 between Battlefield 1 and COD: Infinite Warfare hasn’t helped the game at all. Seriously, what were they thinking? Apparently, even the game’s producers were left in the dark behind the decision-making process.
Speaking with PlayStation Lifestyle at the review event, Drew McCoy stated:
“I actually don’t know where the decision came from. I just know it was locked in a long time ago and there was no changing it.”
I’d wager the decision was EA trying to have their cake and eat it, too. Battlefield 1 was a gamble to grab the sector of the FPS market keen to try something new, and Titanfall 2 was plan B to attract those still engaged in the sci-fi thematic trend of recent shooters. But based on Cowen & Company’s recent statements following their sales analysis, that’s clearly backfired:
“We suspect EA believed that by launching two shooters next to Call of Duty it could put a large dent in its biggest competitor, but instead EA appears to have wound up shooting its own foot off.”
Ultimately, what this all proves is that Titanfall 2 just isn’t a marquee title, especially not in the company of established big guns such as Battlefield or COD. Titanfall 2 might be as technically accomplished as either of its rivals – though Battlefield 1 easily offers a more compelling campaign – but it isn’t in the same league in terms of brand appeal or market sway. Furthermore, the sequel might now be in danger of fizzling out even faster than its predecessor, which doesn’t bode well for the future of the IP.
None of this should have ever happened, though. Titanfall 2 would have easily gained traction if it had been launched outside of the fall season and given some breathing room from franchises that are frankly much more popular. But EA seems to have been wooed by the original game’s impressive, albeit brief, base of players.
Indeed, having penetrated the market successfully back in 2014, EA seem to have confused themselves with this second bite of the apple. The truth is that Titanfall 2 has been undone by a disastrous publishing strategy. Either EA drastically overestimated the franchise’s ability to hang with the big boys, or if they were truly going for double or nothing marketing concept in combination with Battlefield 1, then they’ve made a serious miscalculation. Regardless, it’s an unfortunate opening week for a game that maybe deserved a better chance of success.