The past year has been tumultuous for BioWare and involved some major changes to the studio. One was to reboot the fourth Dragon Age, which at the time was code-named Joplin, according to two sources. (There’s a running theme here—Anthem’s codename was Dylan.) The goal, those sources said, was to implement more “live” elements into the game, although two of those sources stressed that this next Dragon Age will still have a heavy focus on characters and story, whenever it does come out. It’s not clear what a “live” version of Dragon Age might look like, but EA has been public about its embrace of games as a service, and its lack of interest in releasing $60 games that do not have any sort of revenue tail, whether that means paid extra content, microtransactions, or something else.


UPDATE (1/25, 9:50am): The day following the publication of this article, BioWare studio head Casey Hudson confirmed that the next Dragon Age will indeed be a live game. “Reading lots of feedback regarding Dragon Age, and I think you’ll be relieved to see what the team is working on,” he wrote on Twitter. “Story & character focused. Too early to talk details, but when we talk about ‘live’ it just means designing a game for continued storytelling after the main story.”

Original article follows:

BioWare has also discussed ending development on the multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic, those sources said, although one person familiar with the studio told me recently that plans are still up in the air.


What’s clear is that both BioWare studios, Edmonton and Austin, are singularly focused on Anthem, and will be until that game comes out. Even Mark Darrah, executive producer and shepherd of the Dragon Age franchise, was recently moved to Anthem. In June, shortly after Anthem’s reveal, Darrah tweeted that he was not working on the game. But things have changed. This morning, minutes after we heard back from an EA spokesperson saying the publisher was declining to comment on this article, Darrah tweeted that he is working on both Anthem and Dragon Age—his apparent first public acknowledgement that he is now on Anthem. “Anthem’s up next but there are people hard at work on both franchises and I look forward to sharing more in the future,” he said. The creative director of the Dragon Age series, Mike Laidlaw, left BioWare last year.

Even with both of BioWare’s studios all-in on Anthem, some developers have expressed anxieties, in large part because of 2017’s other events. First there was Mass Effect Andromeda, a high-profile failure that disappointed fans last spring and led to the closure of BioWare Montreal, as well as Mass Effect getting put on ice. Veteran members of the Anthem team were thrilled to finally unveil the game at E3 in June 2017, but a month later, BioWare studio head Aaryn Flynn departed, to be replaced by Casey Hudson. Both men are well-respected at the company, but this sort of top executive shuffling often leads to worry.


Then, in November 2017, widespread player anger over loot boxes and microtransactions in EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II shook up the entire video game industry. From what I’ve heard, the loot box controversy has led a number of big video game studios, including BioWare, to reexamine their plans for microtransactions in future games. Although Anthem’s microtransaction plans are still undecided (and, I hear, may only involve cosmetics), the outrage has left some developers on edge.

Most recently, sources say, Anthem’s developers have been watching the ongoing anger in the Destiny 2 community over the state of that game. Destiny fans have grown irritated at Destiny 2’s lack of content, Bungie’s poor communication, and the lingering feeling that Destiny 2 is repeating its predecessor’s mistakes. Although fans and pundits have suggested that Destiny 2’s inability to capture hardcore players may leave an opening for Anthem to grab that crowd, some BioWare developers have expressed worry that their game will face its own growing pains, as all games of this nature do. Most persistent action games have had to recover from rocky launches, including Destiny, Diablo III, and The Division. The question is: how much patience will EA have for Anthem?


And then there’s the toxicity problem, as video game pundits seize any opportunity to stoke anger at big publishers. Two people who have worked on Anthem both expressed anxiety to me about the ways some big YouTubers have spread misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric about EA, saying that it has a demoralizing effect on those people on the ground level. To people who work for EA, the publisher isn’t just a cold corporate master—it is a complicated machine that, yes, is concerned first and foremost with generating revenue for investors, but also supports thousands of people in many tangible and intangible ways. People close to BioWare, along with many other developers I’ve talked to in recent months, worry that commentary from some of YouTube’s loudest voices has eliminated nuance and made companies like EA seem like Disney villains.

If you’re a BioWare fan, there are certainly reasons to be hopeful. Anthem’s staff have shown a willingness to be transparent and engage with fans, as technical design director Brenon Holmes posts frequently on Reddit to answer questions and share details on the game. What we’ve seen of the game has looked spectacular, even if last year’s footage seems a little too pretty to be real. One thing is undeniable, however: For BioWare, the pressure is on.