Anthem patch 1.1.1 dropped yesterday to little fanfare. The patch itself was seen by most players as a do-nothing update. It fixed a few minor bugs, annoying but far from game-breaking, and also removed a temporary loot source that had finally met its expiration date.
Besides the fact that Anthem players have been crying out for better loot since the game’s release back in February, there was one other notable aspect to patch 1.1.1 that was noticed by Reddit user _Robbie, and that’s how eerily similar a situation Anthem finds itself in compared to another train wreck from BioWare.
Mass Effect Andromeda's Anti-Climactic End
Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t even come close to living up to the legacy of the original Mass Effect trilogy. When it was released in March of 2017, it was a bug-filled mess lacking in content and plot. Patches were released steadily up to August of that year to address the technical issues with the promise that more meaningful DLC content would be added later, but the damage was already done. Poorly reviewed and ridiculed in memes for over a year, EA later announced that no DLC was forthcoming and the only future patches would address the game’s lackluster multiplayer.
The last Andromeda patch, 1.10, also addressed non-critical bugs and did nothing to add any content to a dying game.
These are worrying signs for Anthem, also a struggling EA title that has seen its player base erode steadily since launch. We don’t know the precise player statistics as BioWare keeps that number very much under wraps, but we do know Anthem’s Twitch viewership. According to TwitchMetrics.net, Anthem peaked at 51,000 viewers just a week after launch. It’s now regularly hitting the double digits on Twitch, with the lowest number of viewers being just 46 on May 6th.
We also know, thanks to Microsoft’s store, that Anthem started life as the 5th most-played title on Xbox One, but now sits at the 47th most-played game. Even Borderlands 2, a game almost 7 years older than Anthem, is more popular on the console.
Forbes reported that Anthem’s matchmaker is now scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to fill squads to go on missions. High-level raids now launch without a full team, which is a problem because those raids were built with a full team in mind.
What was once a multiplayer game has now lost so many players it’s in danger of becoming a single-player title, and any Anthem player can tell you there’s not enough content here to justify spending full price for just the single-player missions.
Many players are expecting EA to announce the game’s demise shortly. After all, EA has closed games and even entire studios for less than the debacle that Anthem has turned out to be. However, BioWare remains committed to Anthem’s success, and EA reported during their most recent earnings call that they, too, will continue to invest in Anthem despite a “disappointing” release.
No Man's Sky's And Final Fantasy XIV's Unexpected Successes
Is this just delaying the inevitable? Not necessarily. There are plenty of games that were utter disasters upon release but later became critically acclaimed titles. No Man’s Sky was released with many of the same complaints as Anthem: a vast, empty universe to explore with only bugs to interrupt your progress. But developer Hello Games remained committed despite player anger and continued to update and improve No Man’s Sky with new content.
Today, No Man’s Sky is considered the benchmark for space exploration and survival games.
Another example of a game rising from the ashes is Final Fantasy XIV. The game was released as an absolute disaster, with game-breaking bugs and an incomprehensible UI giving it negative reviews all around. It was so bad, that Square Enix actually took the online multiplayer game down to be completely rebuilt.
Three years later, and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn arrived with an updated story, graphics, crafting system, and user interface. Like a phoenix from the ashes, FFXIV became the game it was always meant to be, beloved by fans the world over.
How Anthem Can Revitalize Itself, If EA Doesn't Just End Its Suffering Now
BioWare probably doesn’t need to go to such extreme lengths in order to fix Anthem, but there is the problem of getting players to come back to the game now that their initial goodwill has run dry. Another option for Anthem is going the free-to-play route after taking a few months to produce a massive patch that overhauls the entire game.
A revamped loot system with more and better guns and weapons is just the beginning. More story-driven missions, more end-game Strongholds, more enemies, and a new-player-friendly hometown will give players a reason to return while also attracting new players thanks to a $0 price of entry. Then the game can be monetized along the same style as Warframe, with the option to pay for cosmetics or faster progression for those that can afford it.
The key here would be to ensure that only cosmetic items are ever locked behind a dollar sign and that all weapons and javelins can be acquired by simply playing the game long enough.
Of course, it’s still possible Anthem could be shelved, but probably not indefinitely. EA has invested too much in this game to simply do nothing. It isn’t exactly easy, but there are plenty of games that have come back from the brink of death to become incredible experiences worthy of paying for.
Then again, this is EA we’re talking about here. They're not exactly known for doing the right thing.