Last week, Electronic Arts announced that they were putting their Need For Speed franchise on hold (yet again). The move was to let its developers, Criterion Games, help DICE on getting Battlefield 6 ready. We know next to nothing about Battlefield 6 outside of rumors and a brief glimpse last year during EA Play. One thing is certain, EA has massive expectations for it.

It’s time for an update

A face render showing off the next Battlefield Game. Footage taken from EA's EA Play from June 2020

What was interesting about the news, there was no mention of the game’s engine, Frostbite. Nearly all of EA’s games use the engine but Frostbite 3, the current version, has been around since 2013 and is starting to show its age. Unlike other video game engine software, EA doesn’t really announce updates, if there are any. Epic’s Unreal Engine gets updated almost regularly (version 4.26.1 was made available on Feb 2, 2021). Unreal Engine 5 launches later this year with a few games in development already using it.

Work on the next Frostbite engine (most likely called Frostbite 4) must already be in progress. I’ve written in the past that I suspect the lack of major visual improvements for either Madden NFL 21 and FIFA 21 on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 is because I strongly believe their next games will use the newer engine. The fact that a Battlefield game didn’t launch with the new consoles also makes me feel that EA didn’t want to release big titles without a new engine. 

Collaboration is key

Even with Criterion working on earlier Battlefield games, delaying Need For Speed so that they can divide more resources for BF6 could mean that the new engine still needs work. Developers from EA Studios have not been shy about saying just how difficult Frostbite is and as a former employee, I know Content Producers who have struggled with the engine when trying to get good footage (image and video) from it.

But, I have high-hopes for Frostbite. I think 2021 will finally be the year when every EA title uses the engine. I would not be surprised if Frostbite 4 has been available internally for at least the last year and that every EA studio has used it in some capacity. EA is one of the few companies that can take developers from so many genres (Racing, Role-Playing, Shooting, Sports, etc…) and collaborate together. Starting from scratch could help build an engine that works for more types of games.

Hight Expectations at EA Play 2021

The EA Play Live Logo

Even with the cancellation of Anthem Next and other changes at the studio, I really do believe that we’ll start to hear more about Frostbite 4 in the next two months. It makes the most sense to highlight the new engine and the slate of upcoming titles at EA Play in June. With us already knowing the existence of Battlefield 6 and Dragon Age 4, I cannot wait to see what’s what else they have coming.