Anthem's Fragmented Launch Risks Ruining What Makes Online Games Great

Remember when games used to just, come out? They had a release day. On that release day, or potentially the night before, you’d go to the store, hand a person some cash, the same amount as everyone else, and walk out with a game that you could then go home and immediately start playing. That was nice.

Anthem’s release is not that. Instead it’s so convoluted EA released a chart to try and help people make sense of when people can play the BioWare-developed shared-world shooter. How early and how long you can play Anthem for in mid-February depends on things like which video game-playing machine you own and how much money you’ve agreed to have auto-debit from your bank account each month.

If you buy Anthem on PC and have an Origin Premier subscription for $20 a month (or $130 for a full year) you can start playing the game on February 15. If you only have an Origin Access subscription for $7 a month you can start playing on February 15, but only for 10 hours. You can also do that on Xbox One with a $7 a month EA Access subscription. Everyone without some sort of subscription, or if playing on PS4, will have to wait until February 22 to start playing.

It’s needlessly complex and a bit frustrating. The release of a new online multiplayer game feels a bit like a concert. Which is great. Concerts are fun. Except when you feel like you’re getting nickel and dimed to get the best experience, or when your friends are in the pit but you’re stuck off on the lawn.

To put it another way, part of the excitement around Anthem is getting to be part of a new community exploring a new world. It’s never fun when right out of the gate that sort of shared experience starts getting divided into tiers and gated based on the platform you’re playing on or how much money you’re paying.

This isn’t a new trend for EA, or other companies, but it’s certainly becoming more common and more complicated, especially as its subscription service tiers multiply.

Things like EA Access, Origin Access, and even Origin Premier can be great on their own, providing a way for people to try out different games from an expansive library of demos and back catalogue titles available to all subscribers. When they become tools for further stratifying the audience for a particular game, however, they mar a game’s launch.

If EA is using early access to get people to spend money on these services because selling Anthem for $90 isn’t profitable enough on its own, an easier way might just be to charge $100 and let everyone start enjoying the game together at the same time, no charts needed.

Earlier today, one player tweeted at the Anthem Twitter account and asked why players on PS4 didn’t have any options for getting a headstart like everyone else. Jonathan Warner, the game’s director, responded by saying that EA Access not being an option for PS4 owners is out of BioWare’s hands and strictly negotiated between EA and Sony. “If it were up to me we would ALL play on the same day,” he wrote.


Comments

    Wonder if it's staggered to test servers or to test people's willingness to pay extra for earlier access?

    I haven't bought a game at release for over a decade. I wait until the price drop, might be a month or so behind other players but that's alright as there's always tips and tricks online to read and can tell by reviews if the game is any good.

      Wonder if it's staggered to test servers or to test people's willingness to pay extra for earlier access?

      Pretty sure it's the latter.

      Wonder if it's staggered to test servers or to test people's willingness to pay extra for earlier access?
      Also pretty sure its the latter.

      Developer (Bioware) - We need to test our back end at scale
      Marketing (EA) - Awesome...how can we monetise it?

        what the fuck... this guy was in the room.

        which one do u work for bioware or EA

      It's EA so it's a safe bet that the worse answer that will make them the most money is always the answer haha

    If you have origin premier you don't need to buy the game as its included in the subscription, like Madden 19 or Fifa 19.

    At least that was how I read it.

      No, if you have premiere there is a discount on the game, but you still have to pay for it at this point. I'm sure in 6 months it will be added though.

        No. Origin Premier includes access to the Legion of Dawn version of the game in full for the duration of the sub (it's already available to add to your library from the Premier vault, tho pre-load isn't til 14th). It's how they are getting people to up the subscription from the basic to premier. The discount allows you to buy the game so you can still play it later if you drop the subscription. Honestly, at their current rate, one semi-decent game a year is probably about right, so it works out well for them as they make an extra $20 off people subbing instead of buying the collectors version.

          Yup you're correct, I was regurgitating something I read somewhere else.

          Also included all unreleased EA published games such as BFV and FIFA19 and all the games in the vault.

          If you were planning on buying more than 1 game or remotely interested in trying more than 1 it's not a bad deal.

    Hmm, i dont disagree. But for this game where they are doing all after release story/mission DLC for free i don't mind these sorts of extras that they do, same goes for the cosmetic MTX they are doing, i don't care if the whales who spend tons on those are getting ripped off if its paying for my free DLC.

      Its the nickel and diming of it all that people disagree with. I don't have a problem with micro's for cosmetics, and the reasons you list are part of why, but this isn't content cost.

      Its straight up profiteering. And as @negativezero says below, the benefit some people got for paying out that extra was a shitstorm of a demo last weekend.

      I'm very much behind this game. I want it to work, and look past these server issues to the actual game and think it might be worth my time. There is little doubt to me I'll get a copy some time around release. But this isn't a good move, and clearly the influence EA has on the process.

      Another example of profit at any cost, to keep the shareholders happy.

        ehhh i dont care if the whales and such who spend on cosmetics are getting nickel and dimed. if they still spend money on them when its so expensive thats their own fault.

        as for the preorder VIP demo access, really that was a bonus you got with preordering, it didnt cost more. It sucks that people didn't get to play when they thought they would, but i mean if you only preordered to get the VIP demo thats a bit weird (and kinda stupid) as there is a free demo like 5 days later plus none it goes across to the full game.
        Also while it doesnt 'make up for it', bioware have given all people who had VIP access a free skin for each javelin suit and allowed them to trial every javelin (instead of just 2) during the open demo (assuming it works then, lol).

        Im basically in the same boat as you, i am very keen for this game to hopefully be awesome as the gameplay was great (when i was able to get to it), the world was fun to explore and it seemed like a good story could be told from what was seen. So now its just hoping the issues dont fuck it all up, and if they dont i too will get a copy very soon after release.

          i understand what your saying about the demo being free but it isn't that simple some people may have pre-ordered instead of just buying it on release specifically for the demo access. so its free but not free if u get my meaning.

          i am also going to buy this game which will make me sick because i hate giving money to EA..... ill have to vandalise something they own one day so we can be even :S

          i'm excited to play the game i hope it grows strong.

          Every time a company is rewarded for bad business practice, they are incentivised to continue it. We have laws to curb shitty business practices that prey on people with compulsive personalities for a reason.

          Unfortunately, the laws haven't caught up to games because our lawmakers still see it as a toy for children.

            very good job pokedad if i had written that it would have been like 8 paragraphs lol

            good job my dude

      This free dlc & content is a load of bull. You forget who we are dealing with here.
      I saw a screen grab of the Anthen store, and the skins are US$20 each!! For one skin! That is the price of a full fledged Expansion / map pack. I would rather they brought back paid dlc, it would be cheaper. And people are celebrating this, I can’t fathom it. They are charging more for less.
      EA is simply bending you over and slipping it in, just as they always have, just this time they are trying a new position.

        With australian consumer laws and the statements made by EA on lead up to release the second they tried to charge for story based DLC or maps everyone in this country would be legally entitled to a refund, even if it's a year later. Javelins is a different story, you can bet new ones will be cash upfront.

        Ok but you dont have to buy skins, tad-ah! money saved.
        All the crayon munchers who do feel alright spending money on skins get to fund my DLC its a win, i literally dont care they are getting ripped off if they are so stupid that they still buy it anyway.

        Also thats not even remotely confirmed to be the prices, we dont know how much shards or whatever cost, we dont know if the values will stay what they are and we dont know how many coins/shards we get from gameplay. I would bet they will be like $10-15 like fortnite, i dont think theyll "stay" at $20

          I don’t get why people say “it’s only cosmetics” etc when defending grubby tactics. “Don’t buy them” people cry.

          Do we forget that cosmetics used to be a big part of a lot of games and they were free? Why is it ok to block any part of a game behind a pay wall?

          If the next gta comes out and you need to pay for ANY cosmetic, will you be happy?

          Cause I tell you what, the fact my MVP baller in last years NBA 2K game was stuck running around in a pair of grey track pants the whole is complete bullshit.

          It’s like saying it’s ok to lock the GT Sport livery makes behind a pay wall. People love that shit and it’s a part of the game.

            I'll tell you what else used to be a big part of games (well still often is), paid DLC story/missions, but now there are a fair few games that are making all that free and instead selling cosmetics. The paid cosmetics which are the less important part are funding the actual good stuff.

            Plus almost always you can get a decent amount of the cosmetics from playing normally anyway. Halo 5 as an example where DLC is free but cosmetics are (semi) not, I have like 60+ armour variations, and like 5-10 skins for each gun just from playing.

            I would 100% take this arrangement for every game if i could, so in your hypothetical if GTA made me pay for any cosmetic but everyone then got DLC missions for free i would be A-OK with that.

              @thearbiter117 @ferret

              monetisation is going to do one or the other neither of you is wrong here really accept when arbiter calls people crayon munchers for buying cosmetics that pay for your DLC... maybe you should show some fucking respect to the people who use their presumably disposable income to fund your free content.

        WoW charges $34 USD for mounts and a character transfer.
        Fortnite skins are between 1200 and 1500 Vbucks. 1000 VBucks cost $10 USD.

        Cosmetics are always too expensive. This isn't just an EA issue so stop just blaming EA for everything.

        https://us.shop.battle.net/en-gb/family/world-of-warcraft#mounts

          Blizzard are absolute thieves with the prices of their WoW cosmetics and services honestly, might actually be the worst for it by a good margin... Especially when you also pay a monthly subscription to play to begin with.

    They have flubbed this so hard. If you preorderd, even with the most expensive version, the only thing you got was being in last weekend's complete and utter shitshow of a "Demo".

      But if the game fails, it's clearly Bioware's fault and the studio will be shuttered... SMH

        Yeah no there is clearly a lot of good work in this title, so many worthy of respect in BioWare (and I say that as someone who hasn’t liked a game of theirs in a while).

        What you said is only true if everyone in BioWare was complicit with EA’s where the reality, they are just as stuck in dealing with a corporate minefield as we are.

          Sorry I forgot to use the sarcasm font.

            HAH oops. That makes more sense, I did look for one, thought it was weird there wasnt one.

      What? Thats not even true though? you get a founders banner and a javelin armour pack and weapon in the standard and a bunch more in the expensive version (not stuff worth the money IMO, but stuff nonetheless).
      Sorry have to downvote as your post is entirely incorrect, even if i too am quite annoyed that i didn't get to play as much as i hoped.

        That's just in-game shit, that's not what I'm talking about or what this thread is talking about.

          Well it is exactly what you are talking about. You said thats the only thing you got for preordering, so i corrected you as you get "in game shit" for preordering.

            Also you get all that crap if you have their subscription service too, so it's irrelevant to the discussion here.

            Those armor packs are 100% cosmetic, by the way.

    ...out of BioWare’s hands... “If it were up to me we would ALL play on the same day,”
    Ah, so it's just our weekly dose of EA being arseholes...

      EA will soon offer a prescription of there weekly dose.... in suppository form naturally.

    If you need a chart to show how you'll release the game, it means you fucked up.

      nah nah they don't need a chart, it's for all the white male gamers because they have soft brains.

    Annnnnnn not picking up the title.

      Yep, I'm going to invest in a couple of other games (released around the same time) that haven't been published by pricks...

    Demo was not a good experience for me. Not a fan of third person. Def not going near this. Deleted demo after two goes.
    I thought Destiny 2 with it's annual pass and non-annual pass timelines was bad enough. This is just plain ridiculous.
    I've said it before and I'll say it again, the only Anthem I want, is by Greta Van Fleet and I'm seeing them on Wednesday night.
    Anthem that Bioware!

    I got the deluxe edition of BFV to play it early and it was such a massive waste. The game is still buggy and unfinished to this day let alone how it was playing 4 days early back in November.

    I feel like I got scammed pretty bad on that one and I wont make the same mistake twice.

    Based on past experience of 'live service' launches, letting everyone play on the same day is a bad, bad, bad idea, regardless of how you monetize it.

      Yep... Even Blizzard, who should be the undisputed gods of that shit by now, still screw it up basically every single WoW expansion launch.

    That moment when what should be your valued customers the ones who want to throw $100+ at you, get shafted by those that don’t... though who are we kidding they are just trying to double dip, knowing full well those who are committed, are more than likely so committed they will throw even more money at you because (in some sense to them they think they have no choice).

    Ah EA it is always a pleasure.

    It’s bad enough there is still no real acknowledgement from the devs or EA referring to those who paid money for the demo and still couldn’t play. Like no promise of in game currency. Just an extra skin every who could play got any way.

    I am looking forward to the game but am I really willing to let EA back in my life?!

      valued customers Why would anyone think giving money to a corporation of this size makes them valued in any sense?

        Ask Apple customers. For one example. The core of their business some how does that all the time and has done for a decade or so. Even when they do wrong, because they have so much goodwill in the 'bank' with their users, they can weather the storms. Whether you like them as a company or not one has to be extremely impressed (and maybe a little scared) how valued they make their customers feel. Imagine if EA used their powers for good, instead of clearly exploiting gamers for profit, they manipulate goodwill and foster a positive popular imagine, their profits could possibly be even better

        In terms of gaming, while there arent corporations, The Warframe gang, CDPR, Paradox, Larian Studios all those studios clearly respect their customers, or at the very least know how to manipulation goodwill to further their sales and standings which in terms feedback into their games, which get better, which makes their loyal customer base larger.

    EA are fundamentally a fuck up taking corporate form. No matter how good the idea they may publish, they have to shit all over it somehow.

      i hear abortion will be legal up to 18 years soon how long have EA been around?

        Over 30. I remember playing games from Electronic Arts back on my Mac Classic in the 80's.

          We could always hope. There are so many people that need aborting.

    Bean counters have gone off the deep end.

    The thing I'm most looking forward to is seeing EA's new monetisation strategy.
    Interested in seeing if they have learnt anything (HA!!)

    If people want to pay $20 a month to test the live servers for a week before I log on I'm happy for them to.

    It's a PVE game. I don't care about other ppls level.

    Waiiiiiiiiit a minute. There's no demo if you didn't pre-order? I thought that was the point of this weekends demo.

      This weekend does not require a pre-order or sub in any way.

    The answer to "can EA shovel shit fast enough into all these folks' mouths?" is, as always and regardless of time or publisher, yes.
    Another historic moment for this industry we - mouths agape with shit - choose to patronise.

    I don't think this is any more convoluted than the other major games that are to be, or have been released in the last year. All the standard, gold, ultimate, premiere... whatever editions all have the same damn tables, especially when season passes are involved. Just look at Division 2, or Far Cry 5.
    All I see that is complex with this is that you don't get to keep Anthem if you're on a non premiere Origin/EA access.

      Thats the point. No game should be like this.

      CDPR has it right... everyone has the same game, the same things, each customer is as valued as each other. They put customers over profit and in doing so, focus a more powerful customer image which enhances their studios goodwill, and industry credibility.

        You mean the same CDPR that released multiple different editions of Witcher 2 and 3, with "pre-order DLC bonuses" and was part of Saints Row 2 which had Collector's Editions exclusive to platforms and regions?

          I admit that's totally unfair, considering their stance (and commitment) to the "no bullshit" approach to the gaming industry.
          I just think that getting a few different versions of early access is a bit much, especially considering there's only two versions of Anthem that aren't greatly different - and when compared to what basically every* other publisher has done or is doing it just seems like another "it's EA, it must be worse".

            nobody in this entire thread has argued that something is worse because EA are doing it.

            plenty of people are saying how much and why they hate EA, or that they aren't surprised there was a shitshow since EA was involved. They aren't saying it's worse because EA was involved your just interpreting it that way.

              Well, yeah that's my interpretation.
              But it seems that I don't see anyone carrying on over, say, Assassin's Creed Odyssey's table of editions with 3 days access, or the Division 2, or Red Dead 2, or Tomb Raider... But EA - it's oh Hell no, don't give us a table we just want a game!
              We're not being "nickled and dimed". If you have a subscription, you get access to something. It would be if they hit us with an "Anthem Package" for Origin ala Foxtel's Game of Thrones subscription, but it's not that at all.
              It's just early access. If this were a competitive game, maybe one could say it's unfair.

                I hear your point but I think most people are putting EA under the microscope due to their long history of dodgy anti-consumer behavior. This is the situation of EA reaping what they sew: an entire community who is completely over their shit. People want contrition but are getting standard EA.

                  And I just read that Jon Warner is not even supportive of EA's plan!

                sorry it took me so long to respond i don't really disagree with you, and i can see why you interpreted the situation the way you did, your right other companies have fucked over consumers but EA has done it more often and more consistently. They just attract more criticism because they have fucked people over time and time again so they stand out more that's really all it is.

                  And that's fair. When you top a "Worst Company in America" multiple times, outclassing Comcast, that's saying something.

          You mean the same CDPR that released multiple different editions of Witcher 2 and 3, with "pre-order DLC bonuses"

          As far as I remember there were zero in game bonuses Witcher 2, and ALL the in games bonuses on Witcher 3 were available to all, at exactly the same time. Yes each of those games have different versions, but it didnt matter if you spent 100 or 150, every single player had exactly the same game, at the same time. Yes there was a season pass, but they were quality sized DLC, not tiny forgettable things, they each told their own vast story, completely removed from the base game.

          I dont know much about the Saints Row other than it was a bit rubbish on PC, CDPR was still finding its feet at that stage, it was like what three years before Witcher 2, even our heroes are allowed to stumbled, especially when new... while with EA has been stumbling for decades, and seemingly hasnt learned a thing.

    I’m gonna have to say that describing this as convoluted and needlessly complex is a bit hyperbolic. I was able to achieve complete comprehension after 15 seconds of looking at it.

    The simple answer is to vote with your wallet. But for all the entitled whining which fills forums, the vast majority don’t. Which is why companies think they can pull this shit.

    Played the demo on Xbox One X for 30 minutes then uninstalled it, it's just a loot shooter with muddy visuals and boring artistic/creative direction, nothing special at all, hard pass and RIP Bioware.

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