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‘Anthem’s’ Struggles at Launch Is Reshaping How EA Handles Future Games

BioWare’s massive online action role-playing game “Anthem” didn’t meet publisher Electronic Arts’ expectations, but the company said it will continue to support the title. It also noted that “Anthem” underscores an industry-wide challenge.

An analyst broached the topic of technical hurdles that have impacted the release of BioWare games — including “Anthem” in the past — and asked EA CEO Andrew Wilson if that’s just an EA issue.

“The reality is it’s not just an EA challenge, it’s an industry-wide challenge,” Wilson said during the earnings call earlier this week. “As games get more complex in both depth and breadth of game experience, you’re moving from what was initially a BioWare game, which will be somewhere between 40 and 80 hours of offline play to 40 to 80 hours of offline play plus a 100 or 200 or 300 hours of elder game (or post-release content) that happens with new developed players at scale online.”

That shift in game size and the way content is delivered to a game means that the approach a developer and a publisher takes to things like quality assurance and marketing has to change as well.

“As games have gotten bigger that system isn’t working as well as it has done in years gone by,” Wilson said. “It’s not just about changing the development process in the game, it’s not just about changing the QA process in the game, although both of those things are being changed dramatically inside of the organization right now. But it also comes down to changing how we launch games and how we roll them out.”

Wilson said that EA plans to start to test things like a soft launch — an approach typically associated with mobile games — and a change in the way they communicate with players.

“Our entire marketing organization now is moving out of presentation mode and into conversation mode and changing how we interact with players over time,” he said. “So the day that we bring truly a global audience into play, we have strong confidence that one, the game is ready, two, that the infrastructure can handle the game at scale and three, that our players understand exactly what reasons they’re going to be playing and how they’re going to be playing both on the day of launch and over time.”

Wilson also noted in the call that the company remains committed to “Anthem’s” live service and delivering content to the game over the long-term.

“The launch of ‘Anthem’ in Q4 did not meet our expectations,” he said. “However, we believe in the team at BioWare, and we also believe in what they set out to achieve with this game – building a new IP and melding genres to reach a new audience. Players have spent more than 150 million hours in ‘Anthem’ since launch, and we’ve heard from them that the beauty and expanse of the world is stunning and that traversing the environment in the Javelin suits makes for amazing gameplay.

“However, 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.”

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