It’s been an interesting few years for EA and their partners. The company has faced much scrutiny with the way they handled a beloved franchise such as Star Wars, with games being cancelled and in particular, the backlash received regarding loot boxes and its close tie-in with progression in Battlefront II. Additionally, controversial topics such as historical accuracy being mishandled resulted in the rather unsuccessful sales of Battlefield V.
Furthermore, EA are not the only ones under the radar, as subsidiary BioWare was much criticised for the underwhelming release of Mass Effect: Andromeda in 2017. Cut to 2019, EA and BioWare are back again with some more controversial news in the form of soon to be released game Anthem.
A demo version of Anthem was made available on the 25th of January for players who pre-ordered the game, in which many players have revealed a heap of technical issues, resulting in much concern considering the game is set to be released next month, February 22nd.
Players have been experiencing a wide range of problems, some being dependent on the platform the game was played on. An issue noticed on almost all platforms was the infinite loading screen. As the name implies, players were stuck on a loading screen and forced to restart the game in order to continue playing. This provided to be much more frustrating after the completion of some missions, as players experienced the complete loss of XP earned and loot items that featured alongside. Additionally, some players faced issues relating to combat such as enemies freezing or disappearing, and many reported to being constantly kicked out of game servers. Furthermore, it appears that console players experience specific technical issues such as stutters and drops in framerate, more so than PC players. Music throughout the game appears to be inconsistent, featuring in boss battles but failing to make a presence in other sections of the game. However, this may not be a technical issue but more so BioWare’s choice, which should set to reveal once the game is launched.
Although such issues have caused concerns for players interested in the franchise, EA and BioWare have approximately just under one month to address these technical issues and fine-tune the game before release. Additionally, issues mentioned could potentially be fixed via patches post-release, a strategy employed by various companies but deemed by many players as undesirable. What appears to be difficult to fix however, is EA’s unwillingness to learn from mistakes and their approach to microtransactions.
Same Problem Different Game
In what appears to be a leaked screenshot, Reddit user Thyroid_ posts an image of the featured store items for Anthem, which has gained much negative attention all over social media.
In the top right of the image we can see “Coins” and “Shards.” Coins are obtainable via in-game actions as opposed to Shards which can only be purchased via real life currency. The “Guardian Armor Pack” on the left is worth 40,000 Coins or 2,000 Shards, which is worth $20. Considering the cost of the game will be starting at $50 or more (based on the version you buy), understandably, players are frustrated with the pricing of items that are purely cosmetic. Worryingly, the armor displayed features as an “Epic” item, suggesting items that feature as “Legendary” may cost even more. Other items such as “Gum on Shoe” is priced at $12, another controversial price for an in-game emote. Evidently, games experiencing success with microtransactions tend to be free to play games, in which Anthem is clearly not.
BioWare’s Senior Systems Designer BioChrisSchmidt (Reddit username) has since responded on Reddit, stating:
“Hey there! One thing to keep in mind is these don't represent final, stamped for all of eternity pricing. We are iterating on our economy design and balance almost daily, so you're seeing a snapshot of one iteration. This is why we tend to not discuss things like pricing, because it's one of those iterative things that's sure to change frequently right up until the day you play the game.”
Although it is certainly a positive step from EA and BioWare for an official to address the issue, it is still perplexing as to why such iteration of a market structure is present on another EA published game, considering the disastrous attention the company received with the loot box system present in Battlefront II. Confirming that this is an “iteration” is worrying for players interested in EA published titles, as it is evident that lessons learned from previous releases are yet to be displayed in current or future titles.
As a result of the Reddit interaction, it appears that EA and BioWare are listening to player feedback. Therefore players are hopeful that issues in general will be addressed, leading to a more enjoyable and fair gaming experience. All is set to be revealed on the 22nd of February 2019.