With BioWare’s previous offering of Mass Effect Andromeda (2017) disappointed even the biggest fans of the studios long-running series, something new was needed. That something was Anthem. Unfortunately, Anthem has not become the studio’s savior, but its curtain call.
Doubling Down on Anthem
Bioware shunted the majority of their resources, doubling down to focus on a single project: – Anthem. An investigative article by Jason Schreier published in 2018 found that Anthem’s development was seriously troubled and that there is a “sense among BioWare employees that the company’s future is inextricably tied to this game (Anthem).”With just over six years in development, the final year of Anthem’s development seemed to veer from “this game is screwed” to “game development is just really hard.”
Anthem was officially and fully live and launched on the 22nd of February 2019 and has now been out for just over one week. For Anthem to be the critically acclaimed, runaway smash hit it would have to be both feature-complete and polished and not suffer the way Diablo III, Battlefront II or Destiny 2 did at launch.
Of course, those in the know are aware that Anthem actually had an incomprehensible staggered release schedule that has left the critics, and those with deeper pockets about one week to experience and pass on their opinions to the rest of the gaming public. Their experience is generally leaning towards the negative end of the spectrum.
The Critical Reception
A quick glance at the Metacritic is sufficient evidence that something is very wrong. While the percentage might fluctuate slightly as more and more reviewers weight in, the overall reaction is pretty unanimous: – Mediocre – even Mass Effect Andromeda scored higher.
This is a huge disappointment as Anthem, could have rejuvenated and proved that BioWare still has that mythical magic, and give hope for prequels, sequels or spin offs for Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Unfortunately given the myriad of issues plaguing Anthem, the game has tripped over its own Javelins.
Electronic Arts has a history of shutting down, scaling down, and closing acquired studios that simply cannot meet their expectation in terms of profitability and viability over the long term and short term. Consider what happened to BioWare Montreal when Mass Effect Andromeda did not meet its EA appointed targets despite the game still being considered a financial success.
With EA’s expectations that Anthem will sell between 5 and 6 million units by the end of March 2019, coupled with the current state of the game, and its less than sterling critical reception from both critics and the gaming community alike, it is going to be tough for this new franchise to meet those projected numbers.
The Future of Bioware?
For the employees who felt that the future of BioWare was intrinsically tied to Anthem’s success, continued talk of Dragon Age 4, and even more Mass Effect games, is cold comfort at best. If Anthem fails to meet EA sales projections, and critical reception continues to be lukewarm, there will be consequences that could leave BioWare looking very different. Electronic Arts has conducted numerous “restructurings” and “consolidations of IPs” over the years. Anthem, could be BioWare’s curtain call.