Anthem has been out for a few weeks, and its safe to say that the game is struggling to find its place after its mediocre reception by both critics and gamers at launch. For a game that spent six years in development, and as development studio BioWare’s last chance to avoid the wrath of EA and the proverbial chopping block, Anthem has become the worst BioWare game ever – Mass Effect Andromeda has outscored Anthem everywhere it matters.
The Damning Sales Numbers.
Electronic Arts are known as the publisher who worries most about the number of units sold to determine if Anthem will be profitable over the long term. While Anthem was supposed to be the start of a ten-year journey between EA and BioWare, the lackluster sales mean that this journey between developer and publisher many be over far too soon. For a title with a massive marketing and social media campaign, and a February release window with limited competition, the headlines say it all. And they are foreboding to say the least: –
While this information is based on purely the physical boxed sales and does not account for digital sales data which is currently not available, this still means that Anthem has sold 50% of the total number of units that Mass Effect Andromeda sold, indicating that Anthem is not in a good place at all. The continued growth of digital distribution would account for physical sales being in the realm of 20-40% lower in physical sales, but certainly not 50-70% drop that currently exists. Bear in mind that Kingdom Hearts 3 and the Remastered Resident Evil 2 have both outperformed Anthem as well.
High Expectations, Poor Sales, EA Unhappy?
Given the lukewarm at best critical reception, it comes as no surprise that Anthem and BioWare are in precarious positions respectively. Many have felt that Anthem was merely chasing the shooter looter trend, instead of telling fantastic stories as it once did.
The sales figures indicate that there will be EA sanctioned consequences for BioWare, that will leave the development studio looking very different, but very possibly without a BioWare at all. EA is after all, has a notorious history and track record for killing under performing franchises, titles, and game development studios.
Remember that EA did not give BioWare Montreal a chance to flesh out ME Andromeda, finish the planned DLCs or even learn from their mistakes. Mass Effect Andromeda was successful yet viewed as underperforming and BioWare Montreal was “executed” by way of EA Motive.
Despite poor critical reception and lower than predicted sales, EA hoped to sell some 5-6 million copies of Anthem by the end of March 2019. That is very unlikely to happen, given the current physical sales data which accounts for between 30-40% of total sales. In comparison, ME andromeda was forecasted to sell 5-6 million copies and sold closer to 2 million.
It is possible that the UK sales figures do not represent the global whole, and that Anthem will do significantly better in the American, Australian and perhaps even the Asian markets. Without those hard sales figures, its hard to predict what the future has in store for Anthem.
Is BioWare in Danger? Maybe?
Fans of BioWare have been asking questions on Twitter for the past two weeks, citing concerns over the future of Bioware. Surprisingly the responses that they received from BioWare were confident and supportive. General Manager Casey Hudson and Anthem Lead Producer Michael Gamble have both come out on Twitter, to ally fan fears, citing great post launch support from EA to turn around Anthem: –
Fact Check & Reality Check
The upfront and positive attitude demonstrated by high-level BioWare developers is great, but these reassurance from BioWare staff mean little as it is EA, who owns BioWare that will decide the future of the Studio. This literally means that if EA Executives decide that Bioware should be reprioritized, restructured, scaled down or outright shutdown, there is nothing that Hudson, Gamble or anyone else at BioWare can do about it.
Bear in mind that Anthem is currently the worst scoring game it the combined histories of both publisher and developer. Couple this with EA’s murderous studio killing history via various methods including “reprioritizing, restructuring, scale down and shutdowns.”
Compounding the problem of Anthem’s poor sales, lackluster reception are the reports spreading across Reddit that Anthem has a massive bug that will not only crash your entire console – akin to a hard reset, but may also turn your gaming console in to a brick. More on that issue here.
There is nothing to be done but hope that BioWare’s positive attitude will stay the Axe of the “EA-xecutioner.”