Yes, I admit it: I bought Battlefield 3 Premium.
I purchased Premium without a second thought. But now I find myself wondering whether the service has actually been worth the price of admission. Let’s just look at what the cost ($49.99) really gets you. Please, keep in mind, I will only be discussing what Premium offers, and will not be reviewing the DLC it includes.
The big ticket item is, of course, access to all upcoming DLC two weeks prior to retail release. With five planned DLC releases, those of us planning to get our hands on all five do in fact save a little dough, and saving money is never a bad thing in the age of multiple DLC releases (at $14.99 a pop). With this being the case, Premium offers us the chance to pre-buy all DLC Battlefield 3 DLC at a discounted rate (saving a total $25.00).
Buying Premium to get your hands on the DLC releases two weeks early is both a positive and a negative. First, and most obvious, the waiting time is reduced. Those itching to get their hands on any and all Battlefield 3 DLC can now do so sooner rather than later. This gives a competitive edge for all of those hard-core Battlefield 3 players who can get to know the maps before their non-Premium cohorts, but such an edge is balanced out by the strong probability that most of the people planning to buy any Battlefield 3 DLC will also be getting Premium. Furthermore, being the first to get something isn’t always great. The main issue with this small window of exclusivity that I encountered is that it is just that: exclusive. Because not everyone is going to get the service, not all Premium members will have friends to join them on the new maps. Let’s face it, multiplayer gaming is a social animal. By now we all have our own groups, but if no one you know gets Premium, you’re either flying solo (not always the best way to play) or finding new people to group up with (not always the easiest endeavour). If, like me, you happen to be the only one of your friends who gets Premium, then that two week window really doesn’t offer any added value.
Leaving the aside the matter of DLC and early access, Premium attempts to round itself out as a service by offering exclusive content and events: this is where it runs into trouble. The exclusive double xp weekend events for Premium members are a great addition and make colonel-grinding much faster, allowing Premium members to rank up faster than their non-Premium cohorts. However, the other promised exclusive events for Premium members thus far remain in mystery. As for the exclusive content, Battlefield Premium offers members more ways to customize their solders, priority in server queues, and access to developer videos and strategy guides.
Of these, soldier customization will probably pique the most interest, but for now I’ll focus on the latter. Server priority is a good idea in theory, but chances are if you find a server that is full, you and your friends will just go find one with room. There are enough servers up and running throughout the Battlefield 3 universe that such a feature is, in the end, kind of useless. I can understand the necessity for queue priority if the available games were limited, but that simply is just not the case. Strategy guides and video tips from DICE are also good ideas in theory, but by now, most of us have figured out what does and doesn’t work on our own and can get whatever tips we want from YouTube. So in the end, they fail to add value.
For now Premium only offers new dog tags, a new in-game knife, and camos for both soldiers and weapons with the promise of monthly content drops. I’ll admit that the carbon-fiber finish for Premium dog tags is slick, but as of right now, none of the exclusive content is truly special or defining. Honestly, the “Premium Player” title that shows up on someone else’s kill feed is more defining than any spiffy new dog tag or extra camo. If, say, new character models for each class were included, then yes, I could say Premium’s customization is truly worth boasting about, but for now Premium only technically offers you more ways to individualize your solider.
So is Battlefield Premium worth it? Yes, but only because it offers DLC at a discount. Its promise to be more than just a season pass to Battlefield 3’s DLC is met with a few extra frills, however most of these feel tacked on and are little trinkets of little consequence. Now I realize that the last minute gimmicks aren’t anyone’s main reason to purchase Premium, but if they’re going to include them as features, DICE and EA need to put more effort into their exclusive content.
As a service, Premium is still developing, which means that it is tough to determine which route the DICE and EA will take. There is room for Premium to improve, but that can only happen if the exclusive content offerings improve. The groundwork is there, and while some of the initial offerings (aside from the DLC) are lacking, there is room for Premium to grow as a service that truly enhances one’s Battlefield experience… let’s just hope that happens sooner rather than later.