EA is not exactly the world’s most popular company at the moment.
That was a fun understatement.
The company that has twice been voted Worst Company in America has been working hard to try and earn that title for yet another year. 2017 saw EA release two of the most embarrassing AAA games in recent memory.
“Star Wars: Battlefront II” was so filled with glorified gambling lootboxes that it led to a massive public boycott and the threat of legal regulation into betting simulations aimed at children.
A few months before came “Mass Effect: Andromeda”, a new installment in a beloved franchise that disappointed many (and entertained many more) as it turned out to be a rushed pile of garbage. Ridiculous glitches, poor animation, lackluster writing, and boring sandbox gameplay meant that, despite having been one of the most hotly anticipated titles of this gaming generation, “Andromeda” ended up being lambasted by fans as yet another example of a poorly managed EA corporate cash-grab.
EA’s response was to shut down BioWare Montreal, the studio that developed the game, and to cancel all future updates and DLC. So much for long-tern fan support.
In fairness, EA’s heart was never really into “Mass Effect: Andromeda”; this was always intended as a straight-to-VHS Disney sequel of a game. “Andromeda” wasn’t made by the core BioWare creative minds – instead, it was put together by the B-team of hopeful newcomers who needed to prove their worth, who were all left to flounder with EA’s proprietary Frostbite engine despite the fact that it was never designed to produce an immersive roleplaying game.
Meanwhile, the main BioWare team, one of EA’s crowning jewels thanks largely to the reputation of games that were made before EA acquired the company, has been hard at work on “Anthem”, which promises standard BioWare wordy roleplaying fun, but which in practice looks an awful lot like “Destiny” by way of “Titanfall”.
It’s pretty clear that “Anthem” is intended to be EA’s big cash cow for potentially decades to come. The company is hoping that the game will be a source of regular income, as players interact with each other in endlessly repeating multiplayer encounters, grinding for sweet loot and periodically throwing money at the screen in order to purchase new, fancy loot boxes that are filled with random gear.
The problem with “Anthem” is that it looks an awful lot like an EA game; stylish, but wrapped up in a cynical attempts to squeeze more money out of a (sometimes genuinely addicted) fanbase. Gamers online have already begun calling for a boycott of “Anthem” when it eventually arrives, as a show of force against a company that keeps poisoning the well of video game development.
So when EA announces that “Anthem” has been delayed to 2019, it does look a little suspicious.
Certainly, with rising development times for big budget games, it completely makes sense that a title might not be ready for an initial launch. If “Anthem” is as big and expansive as it looks, it’ll probably take a lot of time to get it polished, and nobody wants another game like “Mass Effect: Andromeda”.
That said, titles like “Star Wars: Battlefront” have proven that if EA really wants to get a game out for a certain release window, they’ll make it happen – even if at launch it only contains three maps and a handful of weapons.
Thus, in delaying “Anthem”, EA is probably well aware of the benefits to letting the gaming community cool off a little after “Andromeda” and other recent controversies. It’s entirely possible that the company’s plan is to hunker down, weather the storms of unpopular opinions generated in 2017, and then return triumphantly in 2019 with a version of “Anthem” that is more reliant on unpopular loot boxes and microtransations than ever.
Or, maybe, EA is looking to atone with “Anthem”, delaying the game for enough time to make sure that the entire experience is as deep and immersive as possible. Maybe the extra time is genuinely needed to make the kind of modern BioWare game that fans of the company have been hoping for since the start of the current generation of consoles.
Let’s be fair, though: this is EA. A company this crooked and disrespectful of its core audience doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.
You don’t have to boycott “Anthem” when it finally arrives, but at least don’t give the company the satisfaction of a pre-order, no matter what ultimately pointless digital bonus they hold hostage for those who aren’t foolishly early to the party.
Let’s all assume the worst of EA, and hope that “Anthem” is good, while simultaneously bracing ourselves for the worst games company in America attempting to yet again stab its most loyal customers in the back.