Anthem Announces Core Redesign And Suspension of Seasonal Content
I have conflicted feelings about Anthem. On the one hand, the game clearly did not meet the audience’s expectations. This isn’t super uncommon for games, but it is for a company as large as BioWare with such a prestigious history. I generally do my best to not kick a studio when they’re down, even if their position as an industry giant does paint a giant target on their back. And of all the necrotic horses slumped over at the starting gate, none is more thoroughly beaten than Anthem. On the other hand, I have to give BioWare credit for continually supporting Anthem despite the negative reception. Studios have cut off far more successful games for not meeting expected scores and sales figures. So the fact that BioWare keeps cranking out the Anthem content is both surprising and admirable.
Of all the Anthem announcements, yesterday’s is the biggest since launch. In a post on the official BioWare blog, General Manager Casey Hudson announced a massive shift in Anthem‘s future design. After taking some time to commend the team on their ongoing hard work, he had this to say:
“We have also heard your feedback that Anthem needs a more satisfying loot experience, better long-term progression and a more fulfilling end game. So we recognize that there’s still more fundamental work to be done to bring out the full potential of the experience, and it will require a more substantial reinvention than an update or expansion. Over the coming months we will be focusing on a longer-term redesign of the experience, specifically working to reinvent the core gameplay loop with clear goals, motivating challenges and progression with meaningful rewards – while preserving the fun of flying and fighting in a vast science-fantasy setting. And to do that properly we’ll be doing something we’d like to have done more of the first time around – giving a focused team the time to test and iterate, focusing on gameplay first.”
It’s a bold admission and even bolder promise. In an industry that tends to fire, forget, and move on, the promise to fundamentally reinvent Anthem is a new level of dedication. Adding content takes money, but you generally make that money back by selling the new stuff. Reinventing the whole game is a huge investment and relies on new players buying the game when the job is done. With a game as poorly received as Anthem, one would think the grapes too sour to entice a new audience. This reinvention also comes at the cost of cutting future content for existing players. Casey continues in the blog post:
“In the meantime, we will continue to run the current version of Anthem, but move away from full seasons as the team works towards the future of Anthem. We’ll keep the game going with events, store refreshes, and revisiting past seasonal and cataclysm content – starting with our anniversary towards the end of the month.”
With pseudo-MMO live service games like Anthem, the general idea is to hook players and milk them for every loot box, cosmetic, and consumable boost they’re worth. Shifting design away from that is a real financial hit. So despite what you may think about Anthem, we should all applaud a studio willing to put players and their artistic vision over their bottom line.