Furthermore, Anthem Is already being heavily discounted in the UK - down to £39 on Amazon, as I write this. These are not promising signs for a big budget game which EA was clearly positioning as a property with a healthy afterlife.
Suffice to say, the usual outlets are picking through the potential reasons why - an iffy demo, poor word of mouth, the damage done to Bioware's reputation by Andromeda - but nobody is really looking at it in the context of where the market is at this month.
In recent weeks we've had the release of Apex Legends - another massive online battle royale (and free-to-play to boot) - plus Crackdown 3, Metro Exodus and Far Cry New Dawn. All are big games, all are shooters, and all are shrieking for attention from similar audiences at precisely the same time. And that's before you factor in the long shadows cast by all of the games released last year.
I mean... are all these games companies run by idiots?
And not any old idiots: epic idiots.
EA has heralded Anthem as a new IP - indicating it was hoping the game would give birth to a series that would stick around for years.
Casey Hudson, General Manager of BioWare, has rasped: “I’m excited, anxious and incredibly proud of what our team has accomplished. I sincerely hope our players enjoy what we have created, and I look forward to the countless stories we’ll tell in the world of Anthem in the weeks and months to come.”
Yeah, I bet he's anxious.
But wait! You need to play this game, because you "Will square off against the nefarious Monitor, the leader of the militaristic Dominion who seeks to bend the very powers of creation and destruction to his will. The Freelancers must thwart the Monitor’s schemes to control the Anthem of Creation, or else he could tear the entire world apart and plunge the planet into ultimate chaos."
Forget your regular, everyday, chaos. This is ultimate chaos!
What's more, EA has been promising plenty of ongoing support, adding: "Over the next 90 days alone the game will deliver new missions, new rewards, a new stronghold and more. Perhaps the most noteworthy inclusion will be the introduction of the first Cataclysm, a world-changing event that will bring with it an entirely new experience. During the course of the game’s life new stories, characters and villains will emerge and players will be treated to ongoing excitement and conflicts."
Ooooh! The first Cataclysm?!? Really?!?! Can't wait to see what the nefarious Monitor and his Dominion throw at me in that! I just hope I can gain control of the Anthem of Creation!!!!!!!?!
Who the Hell cares?
I mean, really. What are you, Bioware - twelve?
I've written already about why I've little interest in playing Anthem - not least its multiplayer-only, Destiny-homaging, gameplay - but there's another reason it's leaving me cold... and that reason is this reason: epic fatigue.
I'm not just talking about the size of the game - the open world, the missions, the raids and all that (though the massive size of modern games must surely be having an effect on sales across the board) - but the way in which every triple-A mainstream release wants us to view it as somehow The Latest Most Important Must Play Game Evaaaar!
It's the same affliction which has in the past threatened every major summer movie; at one point it appeared as if every film released between May and September would climax with some world-ending CGI battle, that sense of the stakes being as high as they can possibly get.
And yet, Marvel changed the course of the summer blockbuster at precisely the right moment, succeeding in mixing up its super-hero movies - to great box office reward - peppering them with humour, and making the stakes more personal, with movies like Spider-Man: Far From Home and Ant-Man. Unfortunately, almost every major game release now gives us Avengers: Infinity War, and this past month alone we've had about six of them.
It's not sustainable, and it's boring, battering us with post-apocalyptic lore, and locations with hollow-sounding names like The Eye of Forfeited Gusts, and weapons called things like The Allegorical Shredder of Carpathian, and characters with names such as The Blobe-Lord of Gnarly Distortion.
All that rubbish turned me off in Destiny, but Anthem apparently goes all-out - in true Bioware fashion - with the minutiae of its world-building and backstory, when the most players would've been happy with a game where you got to fanny around like Iron Man.
I dunno precisely when the rot set in, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has a lot to answer for. That chilling moment when the nuke goes off remains one of the most effective shockers in gaming history, but it also kicked off an arms race between game makers to one-up the scale of everything that preceded their latest game. And now it's beginning to affect the sales performance of those games.
Tellingly, the most recent entry in the Call of Duty series hasn't done as well as its predecessors... and it's not alone in being the latest instalment in a previously mega-selling franchise to underperform. Destiny continued Bungie's weird fetish for epicness, even going as far to tell players that some of it weapons were "legendary", but Destiny 2 has been a howling disappointment for Activision.
Thing is, you look at what kids are playing and it's Fortnite, where there's none of that lore, there's no story - it's all bright colours and silly victory dances. Similarly, last year's biggest game was Red Dead Redemption 2 which, while being a massive game, nevertheless tells a story where the stakes are relatively intimate - they just happen to play out against a backdrop that's visually epic.
Regardless, most triple-A developers seem to overlook why that works, and remain obsessed with their world-building to the point of narcissism. Their po-faced, sub-Tolkien-with-exoskeletons guff is tired and dull, and it's anathema when it comes to asking players to connect with these experiences.
It's scale and verbiage designed to appeal to the mind and not the heart - and in an age where we're all feeling disconnected, I believe players want more personal experiences instead of being hit over the head with a book of made-up sci-fi history bollocks.
The age of the epic game needs to come to a close, and until we start getting more original, more authentic, games - and less of this tedious me-too epicness - I've had it with these blockbuster releases.