Anthem Boycott Is a Foolish Endeavor

It’s no secret that BioWare’s latest creation, Anthem, has had a rough launch. At least, it would appear that way from a less-than-stellar review score, reports of hard-crashing PlayStation 4 systems, and refunds allegedly being offered by Sony that shows history repeats itself. A recent patch decreased the likelihood of receiving high-tier loot and caused backlash, which has reached a fever-pitch. A Reddit post calling for a temporary boycott of the game has so far received over 11.8 thousand upvotes.

Here’s why the Anthem boycott won’t work.

No Real Commitment’s Required

First off, a one-week boycott is hardly a blip on EA’s radar. Not to mention, this boycott conveniently skips the weekend, when the most gaming hours are logged. The majority of gamers have work, school, or other real-life matters to attend to, so a boycott during the work week is unlikely to have much effect. Furthermore, by announcing definitive start and end dates to this boycott, EA has even less to worry about, as the company knows the plans of the minority of gamers who are upset enough to partake in this boycott.

Which brings us to the second reason this won’t work. Anthem was the best-selling digital release on the PlayStation Store for February 2019, despite only officially being available since the 22nd. Some of that may have been due to preorders, but most of it was likely due to purchases made on the day of release. Games don’t get to the number one slot by selling a few thousand copies anymore.

Official numbers are hard to come by on the PlayStation Store. Even if we assume Anthem had a modest 500,000 downloads, if all of the roughly 12,000 upvotes cast on the Reddit boycott thread resulted in those PS4 players not launching the game for a business week, that accounts for just 2.4% of all purchases. Lower the sales amount to 300,000, and that’s still just 4% of PS4 purchasers not playing the game during off-peak hours. All of this assumes that the thread targeted only the PS4 version, which is unlikely. Whatever the actual playerbase, 12,000 gamers spread across three platforms is not going to make much of a difference during these non-key hours relatively early in a game’s life.

Third, a boycott like this is just adding to the noise. BioWare has been especially busy since Anthem launched, issuing update after update to patch some of the most critical issues even before the game was officially out for everyone. Something like a preference for more or less loot isn’t too likely to be noticed by the developer and, even if it is, the studio likely has analytics on its side. The QA teams and internal tools will show the the real drop rates of items across all play sessions. While a couple of thousand of unfortunate drop streaks may upset some players, things are probably being given out at about the rate that BioWare originally intended compared to the hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions, of other loot items given out.

The Vocal Minority

Ultimately, this appears on the surface to be a vocal minority of gamers screaming for changes that the majority of players may not even care about. Indeed, the sales charts mentioned earlier point to Anthem selling despite the lackluster reviews and potential for actual system damage. But, for the average consumer, I’d wager these things hardly matter. They’ll simply see an update applied to their game when they get home from work or school, hop online, play with their friends for a few hours, then call it a night, blissfully unaware of all the complaint threads inundating BioWare. That must be a nice sort of existence, in a sense.

What would work, then? I can’t pretend to know the answer. A lengthier boycott, covering hours that you would normally actually play the game would be a good start. But simply not playing the game wouldn’t necessarily send any sort of message, since the overall player count involved in this boycott is still bound to be small in the grand scheme of things. Reddit is a nice place to vent, and developers do often check there. But with any luck, BioWare will be busy fixing problems and issuing patches, rather than fervently responding to every complaint thread that pops up during what can only be described as a hectic launch.

Are you taking part in the Anthem boycott? Or do you think this is all blown out of proportion? Should BioWare tweak the loot system some more or let the current configuration run its course for some time before making any drastic changes? How does the endgame feel in the latest iteration? Let us know your thoughts in the usual spot.