After over a year of internal overhaul on Anthem, EA and BioWare have decided to stop development on the 2019 action-RPG, and move on to other projects.
In an announcement today penned by executive producer Christian Dailey, he explains that the decision to quit work on Anthem was motivated by a mixture of the impacts of COVID-19, and a desire to focus on other BioWare projects, like Dragon Age and Mass Effect.
“2020 was a year unlike any other however and while we continue to make progress against all our game projects at BioWare, working from home during the pandemic has had an impact on our productivity and not everything we had planned as a studio before COVID-19 can be accomplished without putting undue stress on our teams,” he wrote.
“I know this will be disappointing to the community of Anthem players who have been excited to see the improvements we’ve been working on. It’s also disappointing for the team who were doing brilliant work. And for me personally, Anthem is what brought me to BioWare, and the last two years have been some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career.
“Game development is hard. Decisions like these are not easy. Moving forward, we need to laser focus our efforts as a studio and strengthen the next Dragon Age, and Mass Effect titles while continuing to provide quality updates to Star Wars: The Old Republic.”
Dailey also notes that Anthem’s existing live service will continue running as it is now for the foreseeable future.
Anthem had a rocky launch, plagued with bugs and criticism that while its combat was interesting, its story was a grind and its endgame didn’t have the chops to sustain the game long-term. As the game stumbled through 2019, EA ultimately opted to overhaul Anthem in late 2019, taking over a year to completely change the game’s core loop and systems like loot, quests, and social elements. Earlier this month, EA reportedly reviewed the state of the game and subsequently made the call to cease development at that time.
In an exclusive interview with IGN, EA chief studios officer Laura Miele offered her thoughts on the shuttering of Anthem development, contrasting the decisions EA had made in regards to the game’s overhaul with those it made on Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Battlefront 2 was successfully overhauled post-launch based on community feedback, if not perhaps as dramatically as Anthem was planned to be.
“What’s really important about Battlefront 2 is we said we were going to do something,” Miele explained. “We made a commitment to players and we needed to act on what we said we would do, so our teams are clear, if we publicly say we’re going to do something we must deliver. Creating new content for games can also come to a natural conclusion for various reasons and when that happens we try to be as transparent as we can with the community and explain why.”
Miele then pointed to Battlefront 2’s community post-launch as an example, saying that even though the game’s community had asked for more post-launch content beyond what DICE was going to deliver, the studios were keeping that feedback in mind for future Star Wars games.
In contrast, while Anthem also had a community interested in its overhaul, Miele says that ultimately the best decision based on the resources BioWare has at their disposal was to focus development on its other games instead.
“We’ve believed in Anthem every step of the way, we’ve invested in this game for close to a decade and we’re proud of the work the team has done,” Miele said. “Starting with the game’s launch two years ago, the team at BioWare has listened to player feedback and brought updates and improvements to the game.
“However, 2020 and 2021 are unprecedented years when it comes to game development, so we must prioritize both the player experience and what’s best for the people working on these games. We want to make sure BioWare is able to focus on making the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games the best they can be, while also continuing to provide quality updates to [Star Wars: The Old Republic]. That’s ultimately the best way we can be in service to our players, focusing on these fan favorites and delivering on the communities’ expectations.
“Anthem was a creative risk and its challenges have taught us a lot about game design and even how we can improve our development process. This not only benefits developers, but players as well.”
Miele talked at length about EA’s relationship with its game communities and goals to adapt based on fan feedback in the rest of our interview as well, which you can read here.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.