Regular readers of Cultured Vultures will know that we’re still out here holding out hope on the possibility of Titanfall 3. Please, gaming gods, grant us this one wish and give us the glory of 12 mechs dropping into a firefight to beat the snot out of each other. Other multiplayer games just don’t cut the mustard in the same way that Titanfall did.
Despite receiving nigh-on universal critical acclaim, the Titanfall series has always felt underappreciated and underrated, especially when compared to some of the Call Of Duty games from the mid-2010s, which utilised a lot of the same gameplay mechanics (we’ll get to that). Since 2016’s Titanfall 2, the core series has remained dormant, aside from some side projects both failed and otherwise. Still, there’s a core section of gamers who are still waiting for a return to the Frontier, ideally in a mech and not for a battle royale. So, finally, we’re asking the question: will we ever see Titanfall 3?
The History of Titanfall
In order to properly examine the history of Titanfall, we should briefly explain how developers Respawn Entertainment were founded. Jason West and Vince Zampella were the creators and co-founders of Infinity Ward, the developers behind the juggernaut success that was 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. West and Zampella used the game’s reception to renegotiate their contracts, asking for large bonuses and creative control of the series in return for launching Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. Activision, however, instituted a clause that if the pair were fired, control would revert back to Activision.
In 2010, Activision got their wish, with the pair fired from the company. Many lawsuits were filed between both parties, ultimately leading to the two sides settling out of court. Of course, West and Zampella weren’t ones to rest on their laurels, as just a month after they were fired from Infinity Ward, they partnered with EA to create Respawn Entertainment. Crucially, 38 out of the 46 Infinity Ward employees who left the company after West and Zampella’s firing were hired by Respawn, and began work on what would become Titanfall.
In June 2013, Respawn first got to show off what they’d been working on, debuting Titanfall at that year’s E3. An online-only multiplayer shooter that launched as an Xbox exclusive, Titanfall dropped for PC and Xbox One on March 11th, 2014, while the Xbox 360 port landed a month later on April 8th. What players received could only be described as one of the fastest and most engaging multiplayer shooters ever made. Players could utilise a lot of enhanced parkour techniques, like wall-running, double jumps and more, to explore multiplayer maps in ways they perhaps couldn’t before, while experiencing that tight gunplay that you’d expect from former CoD devs.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the game were the Titans themselves, huge controllable mechs with their own abilities and loadouts. After a certain amount of time passes, which was lessened if you were especially deadly, you could summon forth your Titan, piloting them to rain down death or duel with other Titan pilots, or you could let the AI pilot them, using them like a watchdog to guard objectives or distract enemy pilots while you boarded and planted a grenade inside.
With Titanfall, Respawn found a formula that felt empowering to players of all skill levels. The parkour abilities were accessible to everyone, while the majority of modes saw AI enemies fight for both sides, allowing players to earn lesser points for those kills. Even if you couldn’t match up to other players, mopping up the bot kills still earned XP and rewards for you as a player, and contributed to the team’s points total. Everyone had the chance to feel useful, which is something that most multiplayer games often struggle with.
While the original Titanfall might have ultimately been a success, with Vince Zampella taking to Twitter in late 2015 to say that the game managed to reach “10 million” (whether that mean sales or unique players was never clarified), its limited launch as an Xbox One game meant that Titanfall might not have been given the recognition it deserved. No matter how much Microsoft promoted Titanfall, the Xbox One’s sales compared to the PS4 just didn’t match up.
Soldiering on, Respawn revealed they’d be working on Titanfall 2 in 2015, before fully unveiling the game in 2016 during the EA Play event. Titanfall 2 was given an October 2016 release date, and for those who kept up to speed with the release schedules of games at the time, many considered the October release date to be a death sentence.
To Titanfall 2’s credit, Respawn did everything they could for the sequel, bringing the game to PS4 and adding a fully fledged campaign mode in a bid to improve player retention. For many, the campaign was an unsung highlight of the entire package, with many players, likely to their own surprise, becoming heavily invested in the adventures of BT and Jack Cooper. Seriously, if you’re looking for a short but brilliant FPS campaign, look no further than Titanfall 2.
What Went Wrong With Titanfall 2?
We don’t normally go into detail about pitfalls that affect specific games when going through these retrospective articles, but Titanfall 2 suffered from two key issues that hamstrung the game’s success that are worth talking about. On a minor note, there’s been some speculation that some PS4 users were unaware that they could even play Titanfall 2, citing that they believed the sequel would also be an Xbox exclusive like its predecessor.
“I took a survey. Out of more than 300 people that answered, a full 27% said they believed that Titanfall 2 was Xbox exclusive like its predecessor. [CV note: the final results for the poll were that 24.9% didn’t know, with 394 votes.] This isn’t exactly scientific, but also keep in mind that people who follow me, a games journalist, are probably more plugged-in to these sorts of things than the general public. I would be willing to bet that for the average consumer, that number could be as high as a third or 40% failing to realize that Titanfall 2 had gone multiplatform for the sequel.”
It’s an interesting point, and one that’s hard to argue with. Even those who are clued up on the majority of the gaming industry will still see news and information fall through the cracks, and it seems like TF2 being multi platform was one such nugget of info for a lot of people. Tassi goes on to say:
“Since PS4 has about a 2 to 1 sales lead over Xbox One, the idea that there are potentially a whole bunch of people out there who didn’t know TF2 was out for the system is a very, very serious problem.”
However, the major issue that really put the nail in Titanfall 2’s coffin was the release date, that dreaded death sentence, and EA’s expectation regarding sales. In perhaps the most boneheaded decision in a long time, EA decided to launch Titanfall 2 on October 28th, sandwiched directly between the release of DICE’s Battlefield 1, EA’s other flagship shooter franchise, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
Launching so close to the release of Infinite Warfare is unfortunate in its own right, especially when you consider that both games featured space-faring campaigns, a focus on wall-running, enhanced parkour and futuristic weapons. Infinite Warfare was developed by Infinity Ward, the company that West and Zampella co-founded, and while the pair had moved on to Respawn, Infinity Ward and Call of Duty were still household names.
It also helped that Activision and IW made that last ditch effort to boost sales for Infinite Warfare, bundling it with CoD 4: Remastered. Honestly, and this is just speculation on my part so forgive me for wearing a tinfoil hat, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that Activision directly wanted to compete with Respawn Entertainment, creating a game incredibly similar to TF2, launching it around the same time and using the studio that the Respawn founders co-founded to do it, even going so far as to throw an updated version of West and Zampella’s most iconic Infinity Ward game into the package for bonus points. Just seems like a huge coincidence, is all.
Then again, I could be reading too much into it.
Speculative finger pointing aside, EA’s decision to launch the game in that window in the first place was naive and ultimately damaging. EA have invested a lot into the Battlefield series over the years, so it makes sense that they would want that game to launch first in order to generate as many sales as possible, but slotting Titanfall 2 into the mix between Battlefield and Call of Duty meant the gaming market had no room to breathe.
Three AAA shooters launching in three consecutive weeks meant players would either be spending around £150/$180 on three games, or making a sacrifice. Battlefield and Call of Duty are massively established franchises with huge marketing machines and budgets behind both, so naturally the casual gaming market would gravitate towards either release, rather than taking a punt on a game that they weren’t even sure was launching on their platform in the first place. In no uncertain terms, Titanfall 2 was sent out to die.
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of all this, however, is that EA went on record to say that they expected Titanfall 2 to reach 10 million sales, while Battlefield 1 would accumulate 15 million. Analysts at the time expressed concern about how unrealistic those sales expectations were, due to Titanfall 2’s sandwiching between two big releases. Cowen & Company analysts stated that: “We suspect EA believed that by launching two shooters next to Call of Duty it could put a large dent in its biggest competitor, but instead EA appears to have wound up shooting its own foot off.”
“[Shooters are] a giant category in our industry, $4.5 billion, there’s a very broad and diverse set of players who are looking to fulfill different gameplay motivations. Some people play very quick play, some people play more strategic, some people want both in different context. We feel we have a really strong position to deliver the broader set of gameplay mechanics as it relates to the first-person shooter genre across two titles. I feel very confident that we are well positioned to do very well in that category in the year.”
EA and Respawn made a few attempts to turn Titanfall into a franchise beyond just a series of FPS games, with the mobile game Titanfall: Assault launching on mobile devices in August 2017. A top-down strategy game published by Nexon and similar to Clash Royale, Titanfall: Assault never really found its footing and ended up being removed from the Google Play Store just under a year after the game was released.
There’s also two cancelled games to talk about. Titanfall: Frontline was supposed to be the first step in Respawn’s collaboration with Nexon, with Frontline being a collectible card game similar to the likes of Hearthstone. It was cancelled before it could fully launch. On top of that was Titanfall Online, a free online FPS developed specifically for the Asian markets. Despite receiving a beta launch in South Korea in 2016, Titanfall Online never really got off the ground and was cancelled by 2018.
Not that Respawn care, as they’re currently rolling in Apex Legends money.
Surprise launching in January 2019, Apex Legends was an ambitious free-to-play battle royale game that was set in the Titanfall world. The game’s initial trailers were even narrated by noted series antagonist Kuben Blisk, though the ties between Apex and Titanfall are more like subtle nods and lore hints than anything more overt. Crucially, there’s no Titans in Apex Legends either, which has long been a point of contention for many Titanfall fans.
While Fortnite is the trailblazer for the battle royale genre, Apex Legends really helped to refine the formula for those that came before and since. Apex introduced mechanics such as the respawn feature, the pinging system to allow for better communication between players who might not necessarily be using voice chat, and characters with specific abilities that meant your team composition mattered just as much as the loot you’d find.
Individual characters haven’t taken off as much in the likes of Warzone or Fortnite (but Realm Royale and Spellbreak do feature different classes). However, pinging enemies and locations, along with some kind of respawn mechanic, have now become commonplace in battle royale shooters. Apex Legends itself is also going from strength to strength, introducing full platform cross-play and a recent Switch release, bringing with more players. Eight seasons of content with new characters and maps also doesn’t hurt, I guess.
As for Respawn themselves, they’ve been branching out beyond the Titanfall and Apex umbrellas, releasing the critically acclaimed Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order at the tailend of 2019, with a sequel likely. They’ve even taken on one of EA’s legacy franchises in the form of Medal of Honor, launching the VR title Above And Beyond in December 2020. What started as a group of former Call of Duty devs has blossomed into a versatile and competent team of devs, capable of a wide ranging variety of games.
Seriously though. Fallen Order 2, lads. After Titanfall 3, ideally, but still.
Will We See A Titanfall 3?
It’s a lot more likely that some of the other games we’ve covered. I’d certainly expect to see a new Titanfall game before the likes of a new Ape Escape or F-Zero, and that’s largely due to the success of Apex Legends. The ongoing player base for the popular battle royale, and the constant lore drops and stories being told within its universe, suggest that Respawn still has more to give from that universe, and there’s a player base out there willing to accept it.
That being said, Apex Legends might be the biggest barrier to getting Titanfall 3 off the ground. As is often the case in these deep dives, the question comes down to whether or not a new Titanfall is worth the investment. Players still flock to Apex Legends in the millions every month, meaning the game is still lucrative for both EA and Respawn. Is it worth diverting that development talent towards creating a game that might not offer the same return on investment?
It also wouldn’t be a stretch to say that any new Titanfall game would have to acknowledge or feature some kind of symbiotic relationship with Apex Legends, similar to Warzone’s partnership with the annual Call of Duty releases. Perhaps we’d see the Apex Legends game show make an appearance during the course of the Titanfall 3 campaign, or the Apex Legends Battle Pass will offer cross-progression with Titanfall 3’s multiplayer. This is just speculation, of course, but these are features that EA and Respawn would have to consider before TF3 would be greenlit.
To EA’s credit, they did drop a nugget of hope for the Titanfall 3 true believers in February 2021, with EA’s chief studios officer Laura Miele conducting an interview with IGN to say that the responsibility for Titanfall 3 lies on the shoulders of Respawn Entertainment, as they’re looking to give studios the autonomy to explore the projects they’re interested in. Laura stated:
“Apex takes place in the Titanfall world and the Respawn team is incredibly proud of that legacy and brand. That team will determine what the future holds for Apex and Titanfall. I don’t believe in directing or telling games teams what to create, it has to come from the player community, and the inspiration and motivation of developers.”
The interview also talks about the role social media plays in revisiting these dormant franchises, with Laura referring to Skate 4 specifically, another franchise that fans have been clamouring to see revived. EA announced a new game in the series in 2020. Laura says: “With Skate for example, we knew that every time we posted on Instagram that the first comment no matter what we posted would be #skate4. But we only want to revisit a series if we’re confident we can build an experience that moves the franchise forward in a contemporary way.”
The fate of Titanfall 3 seems to rest with both Respawn Entertainment and the fans then. It’s at the behest of Respawn whether they want to see Titanfall 3 become a reality, but considering their fondness for the franchise as a whole, and the fact that they’re still developing content for Apex Legends, suggest that they’re not willing to walk away from the Titanfall franchise just yet; they just need a reason to develop that standalone game.
Titanfall 2’s success when it finally launched on Steam in 2020 might just be that catalyst, however, as not long after launch, TF2 managed to break into the top 100 most played games on Steam. It also became the top selling game on Steam at the time, which is a pretty clear suggestion that either there’s a dedicated group of players hoping for Titanfall 3, or there are plenty of new players that are curious about one of gaming’s hidden gems.
With Respawn’s plate seemingly more full than ever, Respawn might need a lot of convincing to make Titanfall 3, but as I’ve said in these articles before, a determined but ultimately respectful audience that are looking for a reboot or sequel is usually given what they want. Hopefully, not too long from now, Cultured Vultures will be able to end its crusade for Titanfall 3, and move on to other pursuits, like The Bouncer HD or Knack 3, BAYBEE.
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