Battlefield 1‘s unveiling has prompted some mixed reactions from critics: some feel the Great War setting is in poor taste, while others — such as our own Robert Rath — believe it could reinvigorate a chapter of history which often goes overlooked. It turns out that Electronic Arts’s Patrick Söderlund was also among Battlefield 1‘s earliest skeptics.
“When the team presented the idea to me of World War I, I absolutely rejected it,” Söderlund says, speaking at a recent EA’s investors day. “It wasn’t the most obvious choice… I said, World War I, it’s trench warfare, it can’t be fun to play.”
Söderlund — who serves as executive vice president of EA Studios, and thus oversees many of the titles under the publisher’s considerably large umbrella — compared the Battlefield series to rival first-person shooters, several of which were going the route of science fiction. Call of Duty‘s next installment, Infinite Warfare, is entirely set in the far future.
“If you look at what other partners in the industry are doing, they’re going into sci-fi. We’ve had a lot of success in the modern military space,” says Söderlund. “But we felt like there was a need for a change.”
That need would seem to have lit a fire under Battlefield developer DICE, which held on to the World War I setting. The studio continued to develop its ideas and presented Söderlund with a proof-of-concept in order to change his mind. Söderlund says the short demo “convinced me at least that this was the right path.”
You are free to remain skeptical of Battlefield 1‘s setting — the game won’t arrive till October either way — but it’s encouraging to hear a respected studio like DICE pushed back against its corporate parent on an issue like this. It doesn’t take a historian to know that trench warfare is not the be-all end-all of World War I, after all, and even Battlefield 1‘s initial trailer showed us that much. Whether it will end up good or faithful to its subject matter is another question, best answered a few months from now.
We can expect to see more details for Battlefield 1 emerge around E3 time in early June.