Titanfall 2 is a game that is famous for being an underrated game(well it is one of the reasons) .When you scroll through youtube you can find multiple videos claiming that the game was not just a good game, it was genre-defining. reviewers loved the game and so did YouTubers. One of the reason it is genre-defining is that the team behind it are the people who were involved in another genre-defining shooter, call of duty .so when I first got to play titan fall 2, I was excited. I had heard so much and watched too many video essays about it. let’s get one thing out of the way, the campaign was one of the best campaigns I have ever played, it looked great, the story and characters were good, and it had interesting gameplay mechanics ( time swaps anyone ?) that I have ever seen. But when I got to the multiplayer I realised something. the game did not fall off inactive players because of it being launched with battlefield and cod (sure it played a part ) instead, there was something deeper going on here. which may not be as apparent to many of its dedicated player bases either.
Now, we see how wrong marketing and bad communication can kill a game. Titan fall 2 suffered a misleading marketing campaign. I like to say that a game’s first advertisement is its name . and the name titan fall 2 captures a very important aspect of the game. combine this with the trailers and tutorials in the game, you get the idea that it is an fps with titans. and this is where the problems for the game begins. while titans and shooting are a big part of the game, the game itself has 3 major components instead of two. the third less talked about component being the movement itself. In fact, I would argue it is the movement that defines Titanfall more than the titans themselves. So, the developers should have done something either in the marketing or the game design itself that made it clear to everyone that it is not a call of duty with titans and signified the importance of movement.
Now, let us dive deep into why downplaying movement in the marketing campaign is the real game killer. As a game, dev one thing that you need to do upfront, other than making a great game itself, is to communicate to the players base as well as possible what the game is about. if you downplay movement, you give the idea to the average player that it is a shooter, with titans, and when they get to the multiplayer they realise that something is missing. it ends up being played as a standard shooter like call of duty or battlefield (this is anecdotal but I know a hand full of people who don’t like this game and play it like COD). an amazing game becomes, an average shooter with titan drops for those players. Players know that movement is different in the game but they underestimate the significance of it. leading to them being bored and frustrated and quitting the game. thereby leading to a failure in player retention, which is a death sentence for a multiplayer game.
The problem with marketing could have been solved with game design as well but the game looks like an average shooter with some titans and movement which speaks to the wrong player base ( the casual players ) .and game does not really make sufficient effort to convey the importance of movement to the players .movement is fast and titans are slow but powerful. this leads to player never really understanding what to do .they end up quitting, as is evident by the numbers. even after the recent all-time high peak player count.
There is of course a right way to do this as a developer. For example, have one look at any gameplay for dota or starcraft and you’ll realise it is not a casual deal. It gives off a vibe just upon looking that you will require a great amount of time to even understand what is going on(as it should) .however titan fall 2 looks deceptively simple when it is not .the movement is so big that it will take you a great amount of time to actually master it and integrate it into your gameplay. I would argue that it failed not because enough people did not play it but, it failed because it could not retain them.
this does not have to be the end for titan fall . as many games have recovered from a similar situation . for example warframe at first failed to clearly convey to players what it is but now, thanks to an abundant player base and a very helpful community which instead of insisting on “Git GUD” tells you how to actually play the game .in addition to that the game’s first few hours serve as a good filter to tell you whether spending so much time on the game is even worth it or not .so people who don’t want that just leave early. this slowly but steadily leads to an increase in the player base. the case for Titanfall 2, I feel is closed. I don’t think doing anything now will help it in this problem of communication. unless trying it becomes so easy that everyone( even the right player base ) can give it a try . that barrier to entry for trying the game can be removed by making the game free to play permanently. free to play games suffer a lot of bad rep but one advantage about them is that it becomes very easy for people to try it and decide if it is worth their time.
All this being said there still exists a dedicated player base and the sentiment about it being underrated gives the game a special place in the gaming community. which some might say, sets Titanfall 3 up for success if the devs chose to continue on it.