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E3 2019: EA 'learned a lot' from Anthem but doesn't apologize

The company said the game's next update will include more player feedback.

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Anthem started out strong but fizzled. 

EA

At the EA Play publisher's press event for the E3 2019 gaming confab, Anthem developer Bioware said it's trying to learn what players want and improve the game's next update. Lead producer Ben Irving said Anthem's future is "very bright." 

"We believe Anthem can be a very amazing game. We know we have some work today," Irving said Saturday, though Anthem, published by EA, was originally missing from the E3 schedule.

EA introduced new maps for Battlefield V, a new character for Apex Legends, a 15-minute gameplay demo reveal of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, FIFA 20's Volta Mode and more. 

Anthem, an online role-playing game for multiple participants, was announced at E3 2017 and launched by EA in February. Gamers play as Freelancers, who wear Iron Man-style exosuits and protect an unnamed planet. The Anthem of Creation is a mysterious force that creates powerful technology, wonders and threats. In the game's main narrative, Freelancers must stop the evil Monitor from taking over Anthem.

After the game's release, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said the company expected Anthem to sell 5 million to 6 million units by the end of March. That time frame gave Anthem only about a month and a half to achieve the numbers. The game beat out new releases like Jump Force, Far Cry New Dawn and Metro Exodus and became BioWare's best selling title of the month for its first month.

But Anthem received lukewarm reviews from critics and users on PS4, Xbox and PC. Amid the incoming reviews, the developers were combating bugs in the game. In early March, Anthem got a massive update that fixed problems with the loot quality, gameplay, bugs and more. The game's developers were fixing bugs and crashes almost immediately after the February launch, though. When bugs weren't crashing the game, they were making starter weapons ridiculously powerful. In April, Sony started issuing refunds to Anthem PS4 players who reported a bug that caused the console to improperly shut down.

The game failed to meet EA's expectations by May, even though the company said more money would come from microtransactions. EA didn't say how many units Anthem had sold at the time, but the company said it remains "committed" to supporting the game's ongoing live service. 

The E3 video game conference in Los Angeles is expected to yield announcements from Electronic Arts, Xbox, Bethesda, Ubisoft, Square Enix and Nintendo. You can stream the conference online from a variety of platforms if you don't plan on attending. 

The big press conferences

Many of the biggest announcements happen before the show even opens, during a weekend of press conferences from the industry's biggest names. All except Sony, which this year said it won't be holding a press conference during the show, nor will it have a booth.

The rest, however, will still be planning big announcements just before the show. 

Saturday, June 8

Sunday, June 9

Monday, June 10

  • PC Gaming Show -- This annual PC Gaming Show is held at a theater a short walk from the Los Angeles Convention Center, but still draws a large crowd, filling the 1,700-person capacity Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Inside, the usual suspects, from Halo to Doom, were nowhere to be found. Instead, the crowd cheered for PC-centric games including Zombie Army 4Baldur's Gate 3 and Terraria: Journey's End. (No, the game sequel problem isn't any better on PCs.) The highlight was a brief on-stage appearance by legendary game designer Yu Suzuki, responsible for classic such as Hang-On and Virtua Fighter. His long-awaited Shenmue 3 is expected in November, 18 years after Shenmue 2. 
  • Ubisoft -- The French gaming giant announced its next big dystopian hacking adventure game, Watch Dogs: Legion, launching March 2020. The new game is set in near-future post-Brexit London, where the economy is failing and government is breaking down. The company also announced a new television show, called Mythic Quest, that will launch on Apple TV Plus. And it celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Just Dance party games. 
  • Square Enix -- 6 p.m. PT (9 p.m. ET)

Tuesday, June 11

  • Nintendo (livestream only) -- 9 a.m. PT (noon ET)

Originally published June 8, 11:36 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:31 p.m.: Adds background on Anthem; Update, 2 p.m.: Adds more details about upcoming press conferences.