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EA CEO says Anthem is 'not working very well' but vows to stick with it (and BioWare)

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In a lengthy interview with GameDaily.biz, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson acknowledged that Anthem was a disappointment, but said that the game is "compelling" enough at its core that BioWare and EA are going to stick with it—and that he believes it can still be made into "something special and something great." 

One of the biggest challenges Anthem ran up against lay in its promise to bring together two very different kinds of players: Those looking for a BioWare-style single-player epic (I want to sink 100 hours into a Baldur's Gate 2-style linear narrative), and those after ongoing multiplayer loot-shooter action in the vein of Destiny 2 (Tim wants to endlessly grind Escalation Protocols so he can pick up some ridiculous new gun that's slightly different from the hundreds of others he already has).   

"We brought together these two groups of players who were making this emotional value calculation on two different vectors. One was traditional BioWare story driven content, and the other was this action-adventure type content. About the 30 or 40 hour mark they really had to come together and start working in on the elder game. At that point everyone kind of went, 'Oh, hang a minute.' Now the calculation is off," Wilson said.

"The promise was we can play together, and that's not working very well." 

Despite Anthem's deep-rooted issues, and the Mass Effect: Andromeda catastrophe, Wilson said that BioWare's future is secure. He compared the studio to Steven Spielberg: Not every Spielberg flick is a hit, but the man puts asses in seats. And he also pointed out something that can be easy to overlook, especially for those of us who still reflexively equate BioWare with Baldur's Gate: The audience has changed, and EA's studios, including BioWare, need to change with it. 

"We're going to have our core BioWare audience that's been with us for a really long time. There are kids today who are 12 years old who weren't around when BioWare started making games… and they have different expectations of what a BioWare game should be in the context of the world they've grown up in," Wilson said. "As a result of that, BioWare has to evolve and has to expand and has to test the elasticity of that brand. The teams at BioWare will continue to come to work every day and listen to their players old and new and seek to deliver on the promises they've made to those players. That's what you're seeing with Anthem today." 

For now, EA is taking a long-term view: Wilson said he believes the game's foundational elements—the game world, characters, Javelin suits—are "compelling," and that a property like Anthem "lives for generations, and runs in these seven to ten year cycles." 

"So, if I think about Anthem on a seven to ten year cycle, it may not have had the start that many of us wanted, including our players," he said. "I feel like that team is really going to get there with something special and something great, because they've demonstrated that they can. 

The full interview is a big one and touches on other topics including loot boxes, live games, EA's "values," and the future of game publishing. Catch it all at gamedaily.biz.

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.