I am still struggling to enjoy Anthem. It is not because the combat is dull or that the world is stale to look at. I actually really enjoy flying around and shooting baddies. And the world is gorgeous to look at and traverse through. No, the thing that is hindering my ability to enjoy this game is what’s under the hood of Anthem: all of the technical issues. We are more than a month out from the initial release and a lot of the same problems still exist in the game. Why? Why release a game that was way underdeveloped and was clearly not ready for the public? It still kind of baffles me.
And of course, Anthem is not the only one. Fallout 76, Mass Effect Andromeda, and Assassin’s Creed Unity all launched with copious amounts of bugs and technical issues. All of these games could have used more time in the oven to iron out all of the issues to make them something great when released. But instead, we all got these half-baked, rushed out broken experiences. What is the deal? Is pressure so high on set deadlines that these studios are willing to cut things out of the games or completely not test parts of their games? Do these publishing overlords have too much say in the development process? It baffles me that these publishers don’t let these studios just do their thing. Bioware was a beloved studio by many. But after this whole Anthem debacle, many players have stepped back from Bioware and have become more cautious. And many players hate the fact that they are partnered up with EA anyway.
It seems that the shareholders of these giant publishing companies are the ones making the big decisions for these games nowadays. It would be interesting to see Bioware talk about Anthem if they knew big brother EA was not listening at all times. It is kind of sad as well to see Bioware developers and community personnel bust their asses to communicate to the community, when all of it could have been avoided by more development time. And let’s be honest, Bioware knew the game was not ready. But it shipped anyway. Was the deadline so important that it had to be met? What happens if the deadline is pushed out another six months for Anthem? Why was February 22nd so important? Could Bioware have had asked for more time to fix the game or did EA put its foot down? It is interesting to think about but is worrying for the future of gaming. Are all games just going to be released half finished then just get updates along the way? I think eventually consumers will back away from that model.
The interesting thing about this as well is that it’s not like this is impossible to do. Look at Apex Legends. Published by EA and developed by Respawn, Apex Legends was released to near perfection. Right when you booted up the game you could jump into matches with no connection issues, team up with friends with no problem and play through matches with no hiccups. Why? Why could Apex Legends do this and Anthem could not? Did EA backoff of Respawn while having its foot on the gas with Bioware? Respawn did say that they were aware of EA’s reputation and that’s why the marketing for Apex Legends was non-existent. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual game itself. The decision to not market the game just helped the game in the fact that people could not rip it apart before the game released. But Apex Legends felt finished. Anthem is still not finished.
“We’re doing a free to play game, with essentially loot boxes, after we were bought by EA, and it’s not Titanfall 3. It’s the perfect recipe for a marketing plan to go awry, so why have that – let’s just ship the game and let players play.”
Let’s just ship the game and let players play. We need more of this in the gaming industry. These giant publishing companies need to trust these developers to make something they are known for making. Let these studios do what they are good at. I think that when video games first arrived on the scene it was more of a niche hobby. The market for video games was not a money maker like it is today. It started off as a nerdy hobby. Now games are one of the biggest media on the planet and people know that now. So it has become more of a corporate mechanism to make as much money as possible resulting in rushed games.
I worry about the future of gaming. More companies will find ways to extract money from these games we all love. Which will result in unfinished products, cut content, and heavy monetization. There are still some really good developers out there making great games that players want. But I think as time goes on, these giant publishers will try and snatch up all the developers they can to do the same thing that happened to Anthem.