Anthem tries again - Are we entering an era of second chance game releases?

When Anthem came out last year, it didn’t impress. We gave it a 7.25, saying that it had a solid foundation but not much else. We waited for the gameplay to evolve, but in the end it was just a tedious slog with slim mechanics and nearly nonexistent story. It went down as one of the great disappointments of 2019.

But will it be a disappointment in 2020? We aren’t so sure.

In a recent blog post, BioWare’s general manager Casey Hudson detailed the dev team’s outlook on Anthem’s future saying:

Over the last year, the team has worked hard to improve stability, performance and general quality of life while delivering three seasons of new content and features.  We have also heard your feedback that Anthem needs a more satisfying loot experience, better long-term progression and a more fulfilling end game.  So we recognize that there’s still more fundamental work to be done to bring out the full potential of the experience, and it will require a more substantial reinvention than an update or expansion.  Over the coming months we will be focusing on a longer-term redesign of the experience, specifically working to reinvent the core gameplay loop with clear goals, motivating challenges and progression with meaningful rewards – while preserving the fun of flying and fighting in a vast science-fantasy setting.  And to do that properly we’ll be doing something we’d like to have done more of the first time around – giving a focused team the time to test and iterate, focusing on gameplay first.

Anthem is not the first game to try and fix itself up after release. No Man’s Sky is perhaps the poster boy for post launch fixes, going from immense disappointment to one of the best open world space survival sims on the market. Even before then, Final Fantasy XIV went from a nearly unplayable MMO to one of Square’s longest legacy projects. Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid released without voice acting and is now one of the most enjoyable VS style fighting games on the market.

In fact, it’s arguable that many more games have tried to fix themselves up after release, except they have all failed. We only take notice of the ones that succeed.

In that way, it’s almost as if our expectations of a game release are changing. It used to be that the release was all you had. We didn’t have the capability to patch our games, so if you botched the initial release you botched the whole thing. Then, we gained the ability to patch our games but the initial release still painted everyone’s expectations. This is still largely the case to this day, but some companies using a combination of good marketing, transparency with the fanbase, and the power of a constantly connected gaming community, have managed to renew interest in once failed properties in order to pull them out of the muck and give them a second chance.

This might just be the new way of things. Game publishers may budget their games in such a way that they have money left over to reinvent it just in case it fails. Strangely enough, this is something that indie games have been doing for ages, and now AAA studios can do it because they have enough money to recoup their losses after an initial failed launch. It’s really only the middling games in the AA market that probably won’t be able to follow this model.

But is this model good for the industry? You may have noticed that it shares a particular similarity to another model, the “Early Access” game. These are games that people buy in an unfinished state, usually at a reduced price, in order to help fund their development as they are being made. The thing is, Early Access games are advertised as such. Games such as Anthem are not. They are advertised as full releases, and yet are released in an arguably unfinished state. Is that ethical? Should the consumer be notified that there is a chance that a full priced game they purchase would be unfinished? Honestly, would developers even know if their game qualifies as unfinished? We’re sure that the Anthem devs thought that they did have a great game on their hands.

What do you think? Does Anthem stand a chance to be the next No Man’s Sky second chance game? If it is, would you go back to it? And are second chance games good or bad for the gaming community?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Luckily, we have started to give some games second chance reviews. You can read our first batch here.