This may sound cynical, but I never really expect video games to depict the grim realities of war with any respect or nuance. There just isn’t any industry-wide precedent for it.
That’s why it’s such a pleasant surprise to hear that “Battlefield 1,” which bucks trends by going back in time to World War I, manages to pull it off with some amount of grace. I haven’t played the final game yet, but my colleague Ben Gilbert (as well as everyone else I’ve talked to) insists the game is refreshingly reverent of its setting.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the marketing team got the memo. There have been questionable marketing decisions surrounding “Battlefield 1” for months, but on Monday morning, the game’s official Twitter account really registered on the bad marketing Richter scale by posting a handful of questionable tweets, which have all since been deleted, including this one:
It’s…yeah. What a world we live in. #justWWIthings is a pretty outstanding misuse of the concept of promotional hashtags, which is made worse when you consider it may have been approved by multiple people who should know better. There were other tweets using the hashtag, each of them equally embarrassing.
This, of course, is not the first time EA, the publisher of “Battlefield 1,” made questionable marketing choices to promote this game. Here are some other examples:
The game’s reveal trailer, which was set to a dubstep-ish remix of “Seven Nation Army.” The first gameplay trailer, which was set to a remix of a Wiz Khalifa song while showing the horrors of World War I. A phenomenally awkward sequence of red carpet interviews with unenthused celebrities about the game back when it was first revealed.
Since we first learned of this game’s existence, its marketing team has undermined it with a series of missteps that seem completely at odds with the game itself. Just about the only piece of marketing that seemed to accurately represent the game was the trailer for its single-player story mode.
Of course, the contents within “Battlefield 1” shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. Its developers have been cagey about whether or not women will be playable in the multiplayer modes, for example.
There’s also this tweet, which promises to add the curiously-missing French army to the game with a “premium” (meaning it will cost money) expansion pack:
The French army was an important force in the conflict, and we’re dedicating an entire Premium expansion to them.
— Battlefield (@Battlefield) October 28, 2016
Needless to say, there are more examples of tone-deafness from the marketing behind “Battlefield 1,” but I don’t need to itemize every single issue to make my point: Given that the final product seems to be sufficiently respectful of its setting, it’s disheartening to see the enormous disconnect between that and nearly all of the promotion around it. If you only saw the most publicly-visible side of the game, you’d think it was a Mountain Dew-infused pro-gamer odyssey rather than a heartfelt war story.
The marketing around “Battlefield 1” has been doing the game a disservice, and even though I still fully intend to play and enjoy it, I wouldn’t blame anyone who was dissuaded by the promotional materials.
Update: We reached out to the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, for comment on the deleted tweets. Here is EA’s response:
“We would like to apologize for any offense caused by content in the last 24 hours posted on the @Battlefield Twitter account. It did not treat the World War 1 era with the respect and sensitivity that we have strived to maintain with the game and our communications.”