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Once upon a time, there was an incredible RPG developer named BioWare. It created some of the most enduring RPGs ever built, from the beloved isometric Baldur’s Gate series to Mass Effect. Games like Knights of the Old Republic remain legendary in the PC gaming canon.

Now, dark times have fallen over BioWare. Its latest title, Anthem, received mixed reviews on launch. A recent update intended to improve the game appears to have sent it into a catastrophic tailspin instead, with reports of PS4 and now Xbox crashes, hard locks, and claims of at least two bricked consoles. Sony has begun handing out refunds. After Mass Effect: Andromeda, can BioWare survive torpedoing two major franchises in a row?

Anthem 76

As of this writing, Sony is refunding Anthem customers while BioWare collects data on the underlying problem. Meanwhile, reports are also coming in of issues on Xbox One.

This kind of problem could pose serious issues for the developer. BioWare is already responding to rumors that issues with Anthem could lead to the studio being closed. The game is already on sale at Amazon. And EA clearly had no faith in the launch at all, as evidenced by the fact that it kicked Apex Legends out the door right before Anthem. All anyone has talked about regarding Apex Legends how awesome it is. All anyone talks about with Anthem is the long load times and how badly BioWare screwed up its supposedly awesome Iron Man-esque combat with interminable load times, slow movement speed through Ft. Tarsis, and long, long NPC conversations.

The parallels between AnthemSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce and Fallout 76 can’t be stretched too far. Unlike Bethesda’s FO76, Anthem is an attempt to create an all-new IP in a very different universe. Fallout 76 groans under the weight of the series’ past design history and many of its issues reflect the problems of attempting to coax the arthritic UI design principles that barely worked for Fallout 3, New Vegas, and FO4 into a multiplayer game. Anthem’s issues are decidedly different. But what the two seem to share is a marked problem with bridging the single-player and multiplayer aspects of their respective experiences or in making content readily accessible and enjoyable in both game contexts.

But there’s a difference between being a not-very-good game and crashing or bricking people’s consoles on a regular basis. Whether you blame the EA bean-counters or poor QA in general, it’s clear that this game should never have shipped when it did. It was buggy and half-baked on release, and now it’s crashing and (under apparently rare conditions) even killing consoles in the process.

I’m not saying EA will kill BioWare over this. But it wouldn’t surprise me if, six months from now, we’re reading about exactly that event. After Mass Effect: Andromeda failed, EA froze development on Mass Effect, downgraded BioWare Montreal to a support studio, and then merged what was left of it into Motive Studios. If Anthem doesn’t recover, the same thing could happen here.

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Author Since: Sep 20, 2018