Just hours before EA officially announced the long-rumored return of its Medal of Honor franchise, the company's chief executive told Kotaku his battle plan for EA's war-game competition against Call of Duty. He wants Modern Warfare's spot.
"I'm not saying it's going to happen tomorrow, but in the way that Activision sort of alternates sequels of Modern Warfare and Call of Duty and owns the leadership position in FPS [first-person-shooter], between Medal of Honor and Battlefield, I want it back," EA boss John Riccitiello said in a morning interview in New York. "And we're going to get there with innovation and quality."
EA's Medal Of Honor used to be the leading brand in military first-person shooters. Activision's rival brand, Call of Duty surpassed it and has now spawned a Modern Warfare 2 that sold nearly five million copies in its first day of release.
It's no wonder Riccitiello wants to turn that around. He thinks his franchises can get there.
The EA CEO didn't detail the strategy for the Medal of Honor series, which moves to modern Afghanistan after a legacy of World War II releases, but he did enthuse about the prospects of Battlefield Bad Company 2, the March console and PC shooter also coming from EA and its development studio DICE. (Read Kotaku's recent preview of the game.)
"The first [Bad Company] did very well in its first outing," he said. "The next one is a heck of a lot better and it looks like a worthy competitor to Modern Warfare."
Not only can the game compete, said Riccitiello, but he expects it to do one better than publisher Activision and development studio Infinity Ward's latest Modern Warfare game.
"We think we've got an advantage over Modern Warfare 2 with our multiplayer," he said. "The guys at DICE do that really, really well."
What kind of advantage could EA have, given MW2's legacy of fans?
"Frankly, once you get past, sort of, four people on a map, I think our gameplay is better," Riccitiello answered. "That is a legacy of DICE and where they came from. The original Battlefield PC was a 16-on-16 product and they've optimized. The other thing is, I think things like vehicles and destructible environments are a fresh innovation." [Note from Kotaku: The original Battlefield on PC actually supported up to 64-player matches.]
Riccitiello continued: "I think the Infinity Ward guys are great. It's not about them being bad for us having to be great too. I'm a fan of a lot of our competitors' products. But if you've played Modern Warfare, and you've played the first one — and you've played the last Call of Duty — it's sort of starting to feel like they're making the same game again. And I personally think being able to control your vehicle as opposed to being able to ride on one [is good]. And I think there's something a little bit cool about taking a building out and getting the six guys in it. Personally, I get sort of a silly amount of pleasure out of it."
EA once had the war-game dominance. Whether they can wrest it back — in terms of quality, if not immediately in sales — will be seen next year.