Earlier this month, a Bloomberg report said that Electronic Arts executives were preparing to examine the current state of Anthem (opens in new tab)'s reboot and decide whether to continue with the process or pull the plug (opens in new tab). Today the results of that examination were announced, and BioWare has confirmed that work on Anthem Next has been halted.
"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," BioWare Austin studio director Christian Dailey wrote (opens in new tab).
"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."
The end of Anthem's development does not mean the end of the game, however: Dailey said BioWare will continue to keep Anthem running "as it exists today."
Despite some pre-release issues (opens in new tab), Anthem came out strongly and was the best-selling game of February 2019. But it flagged quickly, and was clearly in trouble just a few months after release, not just due to bugs but because it was "woefully boring and sparse (opens in new tab)"—the sort of problem that can't be fixed with simple patches. It finished the year as the 15th-best-selling game overall, according to NPD numbers (via VentureBeat (opens in new tab))—far from the triumph we expected in pre-release days.
As disappointing as it might be for some die-hard fans, the end of Anthem's development really comes as no surprise. Dailey took charge of Dragon Age 4 (opens in new tab) late last year following the surprise departure of Mark Darrah, and that's obviously a far greater priority for BioWare than a far-from-guaranteed Anthem resurrection. The studio is also well into a highly-anticipated new Mass Effect (opens in new tab) game, an equally major undertaking.
Dailey confirmed that BioWare is prioritizing those two games, saying that "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."
"To the Anthem community, thank you for your passion and creativity," he wrote. "Your feedback and suggestions most certainly help shape the team’s direction, and on a personal note, your kindness and encouragement were much needed last year."
Our own Anthem review (opens in new tab) in 2019 concluded, "There are so many loose threads that I'm constantly asking myself 'why?' ... As a live service game, it's reasonable to expect that Anthem will change a great deal the same way that Destiny 2, The Division, and Warframe have. BioWare certainly seems keen on responding quickly to feedback, which is promising. But I'm not going to hold my breath."