Anthem may have been the biggest launch in BioWare's history but a long list of complaints from players and poor reviews slowed things down significantly after launch. At this point, meaningful content updates have been delayed in favour of fixing the game and many have left the game behind, leading to incomplete matchmaking queues for some in-game activities. Now, EA has confirmed that Anthem did not meet its own lofty expectations and that it will be looking to change its marketing and release strategy moving forward.
During EA's quarterly earnings call, the publisher confirmed that “the launch of Anthem in Q4 did not meet out expectations”, although the game did sell between 5 and 6 million copies. Beyond that, the playerbase as a whole have amassed 150 million hours played so far, although that number is unlikely to keep growing without a major update.
Speaking about the position Anthem is currently in, EA CEO, Andrew Wilson, said: “we’ve also heard feedback from our community about issues that began to manifest as the game reached scale, and that they want more depth and variety in the mission modes of the game. The team is now very focused on continued improvements to the game, and will then bring more content updates and in-game events that will enhance and expand the Anthem experience.”
When it came time for the Investor Q&A, Ryan Gee of Barclays asked EA executives about Anthem and the recurring theme of technical issues with BioWare's recent games: “a recurring item that we've seen this year with Anthem and in previous games from BioWare, were some publicized technical hurdles at launch. And I think the solution has been to respond quickly and issue big day one or week one patches. So has that been something isolated to just EA?”
Wilson responded by saying that EA will be changing the way it handles game launches in the future, which will also have a knock on effect on how future games are marketed: “Traditionally what has happened with these massively online games is you would go through and seed the launch process, you would have soft launches and you have beta tests. That brings the QA component of what happens to these games at scale”.
“In the west that kind of comes into contradiction with typically how games have been marketed. Typically the way we would have marketed games like this is on this drip feed approach of releasing new content over time, build up kind of the appetite and the excitement for the game and then launch the game and it would run. As games as gotten bigger that system isn't working as well as it has done in years gone by.”
With that in mind, moving forward EA wants to take a ‘soft launch' approach with more online games, similarly to how some titles are handled in the mobile market. Then marketing new games will be less about fancy E3 presentations (although EA was never very good at those anyway) and will be more about going into ‘conversation mode', where feedback can be taken into account over time.
KitGuru Says: Anthem not meeting EA's goals isn't too surprising. It was a BioWare game that nobody asked for and even those who gave the game a chance were left disappointed by a range of issues that still need to be resolved. What is more concerning to me is that EA essentially wants to adopt the early access model for future games, which isn't a choice I can really get behind for a publisher of this size.