Battlefield: Bad Company was a bit of an odd one, even for developer DICE. Speaking to OXM during an exclusive Battlefield 3 hands-on this summer, DICE's Patrick Bach confessed to being taken aback by the spin-off's popularity.
"We were actually quite surprised with Bad Company 2," he said. "We didn't expect to get the kind of numbers playing that we have now." Over a year and a half post-release, the shooter regularly makes the top 10 most popular games on Xbox Live.
The idea with Bad Company wasn't to start afresh, but to keep the main Battlefield franchise afloat. With consoles like the Xbox 360 squeezing out desktops, Battlefield's PC-based hardcore formula needed a face-lift for the new kids. DICE was determined to find ways of appealing to console fans without angering the old school crowd who had put them on the map.
Two games ahead, the spin-off strategy has moved to centre stage. Millions of gamers have embraced the complexities on offer in Bad Company 2's multiplayer, and Battlefield 3 runs the risk of appearing surplus to requirements when it hits shelves on 28th October.
Nonetheless, DICE is insistent that Battlefield 3 is the game it always dreamt of making, the game Bad Company paved the way for. Two games down, the developer is confident of its ability to create Battlefield games for both new fans and the old guard. Has the silly off-shoot served its purpose?
We're massive fans of Bad Company, and we'd be gutted if the success of Battlefield 3 means saying goodbye to classic comic characters like Private Haggard. Hopefully we'll see EA realising the continuing potential of the less serious side of the franchise.
Farming Bad Company out Call of Duty style to other EA studios is one way DICE might retain that lighter tone without detracting from 'Battlefield proper', but Bach is adamant that Battlefield games have to be made in-house. "You couldn't give it to anyone else to make another one, because then you'd start to dilute it."
With only so many hands available and only so many days in the year, it's likely that we'll have to settle for DICE choosing to focus on one part of the franchise. So which game would you prefer - Battlefield 4, or Bad Company 3?
DICE boss Karl Magnus Troedsson told us that Bad Company's characters were "a bit over-the-top" in a follow-up chat this week. Read the full interview here.