Battlefield Hardline was recently released to mixed critical reception, but the game appears to be popular. After spending a decent bit of time with DICE's latest entry into the Battlefield franchise, it's time to ask the question that we here at eSports Heaven love to ask whenever a popular multiplayer game gets released: “Could this game make it as an eSport?” Today we're going to look at what Battlefield Hardline has going for it in terms of eSports potential, as well as what's working against the game.
First and foremost, Battlefield Hardline is fun! The heist mode, which is the game's signature mode, offers an interesting asymmetric objective driven multiplayer experience which is a blast to play. Players of objective driven FPS games such as CounterStrike will feel right at home with the team work that Battlefield Hardline requires. The various classes that players are able to choose from also allow players to become exceptionally talented at specialized roles.
The second major factor that Battlefield has going for it is its relatively large preinstalled user base. Though not the size of free to play games like League of Legends or Dota 2, Battlefield is a successful franchise that boasts a relatively high user base. The high user base is critical to the success of any eSport. Realistically, only a portion of a player base will ever become invested enough in a game to become viewers. The pre-existing fanbase for Battlefield gives Hardline a higher chance of hitting that critical mass of fans that allows a title to become eSports-viable.
We also have to look at the flip side when making an objective evaluation of whether or not Battlefield could become an eSport. There are certainly obstacles that would prevent Battlefield from catching on as the next big eSport.
First and foremost is barrier to entry. The major eSports all have relatively low barriers of entry. Three of the most popular games (League of Legends, Dota 2, and Hearthstone) are free to play. CS:GO and StarCraft II (after the release of LotV) will cost $20 or less. Battlefield Hardline is priced at the standard $59.99 that is common amongst retail AAA games. Additionally, all of these games can be run on quite poor hardware. Modern integrated graphics and a healthy amount of RAM are all it takes to run League of Legends if the player is willing to sacrifice visual fidelity. Battlefield Hardline, while visually impressive, can be quite punishing on hardware, especially when the game's large map sizes come into play. The exceptions to low barrier of entry would be Smash and Call of Duty, two games that have eSports legacies going back to before barrier of entry was considered a significant issue.
The second major factor is that Hardline lacks a definitive competitive mode. Although heists are the signature mode of Hardline, the game does not appear to take itself too seriously. Even team sizes are not strictly enforced and players are free to drop in and out at will. The modes that Hardline does choose to make competitive are split between “Rescue” and “Crosshair.”Compare this to CS:GO where it is made clear from the get-go that 5v5 bomb defuse is the way the game is meant to be played in a competitive environment.
The next issue is the size of Battlefield Hardline teams. Battlefield has larger teams than other games, and this makes it a less attractive title for tournament organizers. Organizing events for games with larger than five player teams requires event organizers to spend more money on travel, spend more money on larger sound-proof booths, spend more money on the prize pool, have more computer hardware on hand, and have more staff support.
ESL One is the Largest Battlefield Professional Circuit
Notably ESL One, which hosts the most lucrative Battlefield circuit to date plays out their games in a five versus five player formate. Although this helps solve the problem of teams being too large it also robs much of Battlefield's unique spirit, and this is reflected in the viewer numbers for Battlefield events versus events for more popular eSports such as CSGO or Call of Duty.
The other issue caused by the larger team sizes is that the games are more chaotic. The fact that more is going on at any given time requires that spectators have a higher degree of game knowledge in order to follow the action. At some point, even knowledgeable fans may become lost in the overwhelming amount of action that could be taken place at any one time.
That doesn't mean that Battlefield fans should distress, however. ESL has already announced their first Test Cup for Battlefield Hardline and it appears they will be showing the game at least some level of support via online tournaments. Battlefield, as with any popular game, is likely to develop some level of competitive scene. Players that are passionate about the game will have the chance to test their mettle and fight for the title of best Battlefield team, and perhaps even win some money during all of this. Yet, I do think that with all of the above factors considered it is unlikely that the Battlefield Hardlines,as it exists today and future Battlefield titles to follow, will ever become a major eSport