In a blog post earlier today, Bioware announced that the long discussed "Anthem NEXT" project has been cancelled. The news comes just ahead of an article from Jason Schreier at Bloomberg reporting the same story.
EA executives reportedly met about two weeks ago to discuss whether or not the project would be allowed to move forward. Bioware's studio director Christian Dailey opened the blog post without any prevarication. "In the spirit of transparency and closure we wanted to share that we’ve made the difficult decision to stop our new development work on Anthem (aka Anthem NEXT)," he wrote. "We will, however, continue to keep the Anthem live service running as it exists today."
Dailey went on to relate that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be far more taxing than anticipated, causing significant strains on the development team. "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 has apparently been instructed "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," wrote Dailey. "To the Anthem community, thank you for your passion and creativity. 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. Please stay safe and be kind to each other. Strong alone, stronger together."
Food For Thought
This development is not entirely unexpected, though the amount of time between the announced consideration of the issue and the actual news does feel like a final twist of the knife from EA. Looking back over previous blog entries, it certainly appears as though Bioware was learning from its mistakes and paying attention to what other studios had done, while also looking to put their own distinct spin on the loot shooter genre. But all of that work has now been effectively wasted. If there is a silver lining in any of this, it's that Bioware is still around for the moment. We might theoretically be getting a new Anthem game at some point, but it will likely be several years down the road as an all new project, and risks making the exact same mistakes as its predecessor did.