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Why Is No One Talking About ‘Anthem’ from BioWare?

Muted marketing, closed betas and a confused media could spell disaster for the release and for the gaming studio

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BioWare/EA

BioWare’s Anthem was the best thing I played at E3 last year. I snuck into a demo during the EA Play event and was genuinely bowled over at how the upcoming mech-suited, multiplayer-focused, gorgeous-looking Game as a Service™ played. All of the action felt incredible. It reminded me of the first time I played Titanfall and how every character action felt extremely tight and satisfying. I left E3 wanting only to play more Anthem.

 

But here we are, a month away from BioWare’s latest big release, its first since 2017’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, and no one seems to be talking it.

 

BioWare has been relatively silent in the run-up to Anthem. They are holding a private beta, have posted only eight videos on the game’s YouTube channel in the past six months and have just in the past few weeks released new gameplay videos to IGN. It’s paltry in comparison to most other triple-A releases and downright puzzling when likened to other tentpole games like Destiny, to which Anthem is often compared.

Who’s to Blame?

Hype is a difficult, subjective thing to quantify. There’s only one announced game also expected to come out in the first half of this year that has a similar plan to Anthem’s continuing content: The Division 2. But even then, The Division 2 has a head start as a sequel to a fairly successful product versus an original IP. But looking at social metrics like Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers and subreddit subscribers, Anthem has only a third of the following compared to The Division 2.

 

Most telling are the scant number of news stories that have come out in the past few months around Anthem. Besides the few gameplay videos on IGN, news has been extremely spotty, based off of developer tweets and the occasional livestream. Additionally, there are quite a few stories that highlight the continued confusion about what Anthem actually is, like this Jan. 15 Forbes story titled “I'm Not Sure What Anthem Is, But It Looks Better After Every Preview.” No matter how you slice it, Anthem seems relatively absent from the video game conversation and much of that blame can be laid at BioWare and publisher EA’s feet.

 

Anthem is similar to Destiny in more ways than being a sci-fi, ongoing, multiplayer shooter. The two games also have a distinct comparison with regards to their development studio’s situation. Both games are/were something of a gamble.

Anthem seems well out of BioWare’s well-established wheelhouse of deep, story-based, single-player RPGs

- Peter Clark

Destiny’s developer Bungie was trying to strike out on its own, away from a long history with Microsoft and its Halo franchise. Also, the idea of a continuing online multiplayer-focused action adventure for consoles was then something of an oddity. Anthem seems well out of BioWare’s well-established wheelhouse of deep, story-based, single-player RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic, the Mass Effect series and the Dragon Age series. However, Bungie was nowhere near the straits in which BioWare currently resides.

BioWare’s tarnished legacy

Mass Effect: Andromeda was an undoubted black mark on BioWare’s legacy. The follow-up to the highly-regarded Mass Effect trilogy, though receiving middling reviews, over time became a punchline for its performance bugs and its lackluster story. The reception of Andromeda was so harmful that two months after the game’s release, BioWare’s owner EA eventually canceled expected DLC for the game, moved the primary development team onto other projects and put the whole of the franchise on hiatus.

 

EA has not been the best steward of the video game industry and its studios have had to pay. It has won several awards from The Consumerist for “Worst Company in America” and has regular debacles like 2017’s long-running Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box fiasco. Missteps and changes of direction like this have led to lauded studios like Visceral Games being shut down and years of developers’ work getting canceled such as this week’s Star Wars game news.

 

Anthem puts BioWare in an even more precarious position because the upcoming game is such a departure from what fans expect from the studio. Those looking to find a classic BioWare first-person, rich story full of nuance and detail might be disappointed, and many are already making their trepidation known in the media.

What does this mean for BioWare’s future?

All of this possibly puts BioWare on the chopping block. As one developer reportedly told Kotaku, ”There’s a belief that if Anthem doesn’t live up to EA’s expectations, BioWare will look very different in the future.” It’s worth noting that BioWare teased Dragon Age 4 at December’s Video Game Music Awards.

 

With these chips stacked against them, you’d think that EA and BioWare would make the type of media push we’ve come to expect that gets this game (and what exactly it is) in front of as many eyes as possible. Instead, there has been a muted marketing, closed betas and a confused media.

 

Despite having many questions myself, I’m still extremely excited about the release of Anthem and I will gladly buy it. However, that’s largely because I was lucky enough to play it. For everyone else, BioWare better hope word of mouth spreads far and wide in the final weeks before release.

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