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EA reflects on Anthem, which "did not meet expectations"

"The most digital game we have ever launched."

Much has been written about Anthem's rocky path through development, shaky launch, and the recent reshuffling of post-launch plans as developer BioWare continues to try and save its struggling online game.

Now, publisher EA has weighed in with its take on the financial side of things. It's not great but, actually, it's not all bad either.

Let's get that bad stuff out the way first. "Anthem underperformed our expectations," EA exec Blake Jorgensen said during the company's investor call late last night (transcribed by Seeking Alpha). This seems to be the overall vibe. "The launch of Anthem did not meet our expectations," EA boss Andrew Wilson also confirmed at one point.

EA had, perhaps wisely, never bet big on Anthem delivering immediate profits. Its expectations were conservative, and yet Anthem did not meet these. That's not great.

But EA also make it clear to investors it would still be spending money to support Anthem for the forseeable future. Also, that it still had confidence in BioWare, a developer which has now suffered two flops on the trot.

"We continue to invest heavily in Anthem, with developers working on game quality, content, systems and game mechanics. It's great original IP and we've doubled down on the product," Jorgensen said.

"We are committed to the live service for Anthem, and delivering for our community in this new IP over the long-term," Wilson later added. "We believe in the team at BioWare, and we also believe in what they set out to achieve with this game - building a new IP and melding genres to reach a new audience."

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Anthem did not perform well in the UK chart, which counts physical copies sold. In fact, Anthem shifted half the boxed copies of Mass Effect Andromeda. But it did much better in digital sales - perhaps because of its online nature.

EA's revenue from full game downloads was up 10 per cent year-on-year, something the publisher said had been "driven by the launch of Anthem and by the ongoing shift to digital". Almost half - 49 per cent - of full game sales on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were sold digitally during the last financial quarter. This is, again, a stat boosted by Anthem.

"Judging from sales so far, [Anthem] is the most digital game we have ever launched," Jorgensen noted.

One last point of interest came from Andrew Wilson's response to a query on how the launches of games like Anthem and Star Wars Battlefront 2 (which had its own drama around launch) may affect big budget EA releases going forward, with Wilson suggesting a mobile-style soft launch for big-budget games.

"It also comes down to changing how we launch games and how we rolled out and you should expect we'll start to test things like soft launches, the same things that you see in the mobile space right now," Wilson said.

"And it also comes down to changing how we communicate with players. And our entire marketing organisation now is moving out of presentation mode and into conversation mode and changing how we interact with players over time."

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