The first few months of 2019 has proven to be a rough road for Anthem, one filled with bugs, upset players, and a damaging report that highlighted BioWare's seemingly lack of work life balance for its employees. However, the past month has seen a bit of positivity return to the game thanks in large part to the game's latest update: the Cataclysm event. While it isn't the cure all fix that many fans were hoping for, the update added new things to do, a story line to follow, and loot to chase. Unfortunately, the event was always intended to be temporary and now that it's winding down, many fans were hoping that Cataclysm was a stepping stone for the next phase.
With Ben Irving announcing his departure from BioWare last month, communication has fallen to Anthem's Head of Live Services, Chad Robertson. In a recent blog post, Robertson attempted to shed some light on the current state of the game and providing answers for what was next. Unfortunately, the post did not go over well with fans as it not only announced that the studio was scrapping the formerly announced post launch plans and replacing them with seasonal content, but that it had nothing else to share with players right now.
It's entirely possible that BioWare is still in the early planning phases of what it is calling seasonal content and is a bit gun shy about revealing something too soon, a problem Anthem suffered in its first few months, but the blog post may have only deepened the fear that there's no roadmap to share for a game that released over six months ago. In fact, this issue is magnified even more thanks to its main rival in the live-service genre, Destiny 2.
Bungie is also preparing to launch its first solo expansion pack for Destiny 2 called Shadowkeep, content that the studio is clearly proud of as developers have been discussion it non-stop since its initial reveal prior to E3. The company has already released countless trailers, attended multiple trade shows to showcase new gameplay, and has written at length about all the changed and new stuff players can look forward to. Luke Smith, creative director on Destiny 2, even released a three part director's cut blog which took a look back at how the Annual Pass content went, what's happening with the Crucible, and where the future of the franchise is going. This is something that the studio had never done before, yet was received incredibly well by the fans.
Not too long ago, Bungie was in a similar spot to where BioWare currently is. Although the Destiny franchise has proven to be successful, it has also had its fair share of growing pains and communication issues. Destiny was notorious for going through long content and communication droughts as Bungie was viewed as a studio that wasn't interested in talking about things until they were set in stone. Typically this resulted in new information getting revealed mere days before it was set to release. The droughts were so bad at points that major players like TripleWRECK shared his frustrations and beliefs that the community wasn't being treated fairly by Bungie.
This issue was something which both Bungie and Activision actively attempted to correct for Destiny 2. Although there were plenty of growing pains to overcome in its first year, the studio began to evolve in how it interacted with its community. It was more open about its plans, whether expansions or upcoming sandbox changes and used its weekly blog to highlight topics, concerns, and content. The studio also moved away from traditional expansions and instead adopted a seasonal structure which provided a steady stream of events, content, and unlockables to keep fans playing while bigger things were developed behind the scenes.
While both games struggled through their own rough patches, the major difference between the two is that Destiny was able to build on top of a rock solid gameplay foundation, something Anthem can't really claim in the same way. While there are elements of the moment to moment gameplay that players enjoy like the flying, the shooter side of the game isn't quite as strong as what Bungie created for Destiny. Without an addicting gameplay loop, Anthem has had a tougher time retaining its player base which also makes situations like this all the more damaging.
Unfortunately, BioWare has also seemingly shied away from how it interacts with the community. During Anthem's launch window, the company was very active in the community, especially in its own sub-Reddit. As the fans began to turn on the game due to its myriad of issues, developers stopped posting, further angering fans who wanted to know what was going on. Things have not gone back to the way they originally were and doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon, especially with public faces like Ben Irving and other BioWare developers no longer attached to the project.
It's clear that BioWare has a lot of work ahead of it if it really does intend to save Anthem. As Bungie and its Destiny franchise have proven, communication with the community is paramount. With the Cataclysm event ending, current players are worried about the longevity of Anthem and the latest blog post essentially only increased those fears further. The situation that the game now finds itself in this week has really highlighted how different two major studios can be in how they handle their live service shooter games. With a worried and frustrated community and fears that the ship is actively sinking, it appears that BioWare should be taking a look at Bungie's evolution for ideas on how to try and improve the current state of things.
Anthem is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.