A new report is coming in that at long last, EA is about to commit to one direction or the other for the long-gestating, somewhat baffling reboot of Anthem, known as Anthem 2.0 or Anthem Next.
Jason Schreier at Bloomberg reports that EA is set to make a decision this week about Anthem’s fate, whether or not to triple down on the revival idea, when they have previously doubled down by having a team of 30 or so work in “incubation mode” for the future of the game for the past year and a half. To move forward, they would have to at least triple the size of that team, the report states.
As someone who has played more Anthem than most and been more generous in my assessment of the IP, even if in a perfect world, I would love to see a totally revitalized Anthem 2.0 and have a new looter to add to my rotation, I still have to say….
Nope, don’t do it. It just doesn’t make any sense at this point.
It’s hard to count the number of factors working against the idea here.
First of all, the team recently lost its leader, Christian Dailey, who was moved to lead Dragon Age 4 after Mark Darrah’s departure. And of course it lost all the original directors attached to it long ago, as they left the company or moved to other projects. It’s not clear who is leading the team now, and what experience they might have.
Next, there’s nothing to indicate that anything short of a massive expansion or sequel would allow Anthem to regenerate enough interest for this to be viable. And given the state of Anthem at launch, players would expect things like that to be…free. BioWare coming out to charge $40 for Anthem Next or just going all the way for Anthem 2 at $60 would be another wild swing and a miss after the legacy of the original.
The team size here has never made sense. 30 people working on this for a year and a half is tiny, and tripling it to 90? Current active looters like Warframe and Destiny have hundreds of people working on them at all times. What could the scale of an Anthem reboot possibly be with a team of that size? And if it’s not big enough, it simply won’t matter at all.
There is always a lot of talk comparing Anthem 2.0 to the possible resurrection of other “lost” franchises. And yet games with big turnarounds like Diablo 3 or Final Fantasy XIV had a legacy to protect for that IP, and fans had loads of goodwill for each franchise. Anthem has none of that as a brand new IP that is mostly remembered as a meme, even if that may not be entirely fair. Other games like Destiny 1 and No Man’s Sky may have been brand new IPs that put their heads down and fixed things, but they had the entire studio working on that transformation, not 10-20% of their workforce. And clearly, BioWare’s priorities right now are Dragon Age 4 and now the upcoming Mass Effect, as they probably should be.
It’s over. It was over a long time ago, and I don’t see anything fruitful coming from this, whether it’s 30 people or 90 people working on it. The market position is not there. The fanbase never got large enough. Its competitors are too well-fortified. Just…no.
My advice? Harvest the good from Anthem and use it elsewhere. I think there’s a lot of neat stuff in the combat, from gunplay to mobility, and even if Mass Effect 4 isn’t having everyone zip around like Iron Man, clearly, there’s a lot of neat stuff there, and the teams that built it could obviously use their skills elsewhere. I’ve always maintained that Anthem probably just should have been a Mass Effect game in the first place.
We’ll see what happens later this week, and if this report pans out. It is difficult for me to imagine EA moving forward with Anthem 2.0 now, but then again, it was difficult to imagine why they committed to doing it in the first place. We’ll have to see, but for now, EA has no comment on the report.
Amazon, Apple not to charge extra for lossless music
Amazon Music, which so far charged a premium for lossless audio, became the first major music service on Monday to upgrade its subscribers to the format.
Lossless is a higher quality audio format that preserves every detail of the original audio file without compressing the quality while streaming.
American rapper Jay-Z’s Tidal was among the first to roll out the technology, charging $19.99 per month for lossless music.
The e-commerce giant’s Amazon Music Unlimited with lossless music will cost less than half that at the industry standard price of $9.99 per month.
Separately, Apple said subscribers would be able to listen to its entire music catalog of more than 75 million songs by next month in the lossless format at no additional cost.
(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)
Cyberattack exposes lack of required defenses on U.S. pipelines
The shutdown of the biggest U.S. fuel pipeline by a ransomware attack highlights a systemic vulnerability: Pipeline operators have no requirement to implement cyber defenses.
The U.S. government has had robust, compulsory cybersecurity protocols for most of the power grid for about 10 years to prevent debilitating hacks by criminals or state actors.
But the country’s 2.7 million miles (4.3 million km) of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines have only voluntary measures, which leaves security up to the individual operators, experts said.
“Simply encouraging pipelines to voluntarily adopt best practices is an inadequate response to the ever-increasing number and sophistication of malevolent cyber actors,” Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said.
Protections could include requirements for encryption, multifactor authentication, backup systems, personnel training and segmenting networks so access to the most sensitive elements can be restricted.
FERC’s authority to impose cyber standards on the electric grid came from a 2005 law but it does not extend to pipelines.
Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. oil products pipeline and source of nearly half the supply on the East Coast, has been shut since Friday after a ransomware attack the FBI attributed to DarkSide, a group cyber experts believe is based in Russia or Eastern Europe.
The outage has led to higher gasoline prices in the U.S. South and worries about wider shortages and potential price gouging ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.
Colonial did not immediately respond to a query about whether cybersecurity standards should be mandatory.
The American Petroleum Institute lobbying group said it was talking with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Energy Department and others to understand the threat and mitigate risk.
Cyber oversight of pipelines falls to the TSA, an office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has provided voluntary security guidelines to pipeline companies.
The General Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog, said in a 2019 report that the TSA only had six full-time employees in its pipeline security branch through 2018, which limited the office’s reviews of cybersecurity practices.
The TSA said it has since expanded staff to 34 positions on pipeline and cybersecurity. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it supports mandatory protections.
When asked by reporters whether the Biden administration would put in place rules, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said it was discussing administrative and legislative options to “raise the cyber hygiene across the country.”
President Joe Biden is hoping Congress will pass a $2.3 billion infrastructure package, and pipeline requirements could be put into that legislation. But experts said there was no quick fix.
“The hard part is who do you tell what to do and what do you tell them to do,” Christi Tezak, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, said.
U.S. Representatives Fred Upton, a Republican, and Bobby Rush, a Democrat, said on Wednesday they have reintroduced legislation requiring the Department of Energy to ensure the security of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. Such legislation could get folded into a wider bill.
The power grid is regulated by FERC, and mostly organized into nonprofit regional organizations. That made it relatively easy for legislators to put forward the 2005 law that allows FERC to approve mandatory cyber measures.
A range of public and private companies own pipelines. They mostly operate independently and lack a robust federal regulator.
Their oversight falls under different laws depending on what they carry. Products include crude oil, fuels, water, hazardous liquids and – potentially – carbon dioxide for burial underground to control climate change. This diversity could make it harder for legislators to impose a unified requirement.
Tristan Abbey, a former aide to Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who worked at the White House national security council under former President Donald Trump, said Congress is both the best and worst way to tackle the problem.
“Legislation may be necessary when jurisdiction is ambiguous and agencies lack resources,” said Abbey, now president of Comarus Analytics LLC.
But a bill should not be seen as a magic wand, he said.
“Standards may be part of the answer, but federal regulations need to mesh with state requirements without stifling innovation.”
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Marguerita Choy)
U.S. senator asks firms about sales of hard disk drives to Huawei
A senior Republican U.S. senator on Tuesday asked the chief executives of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Seagate Technology, and Western Digital Corp if the companies are improperly supplying Huawei with foreign-produced hard disk drives.
Senator Roger Wicker, the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, said a 2020 U.S. Commerce Department regulation sought to “tighten Huawei’s ability to procure items that are the direct product of specified U.S. technology or software, such as hard disk drives.”
He said he was engaged “in a fact-finding process… about whether leading global suppliers of hard disk drives are complying” with the regulation.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
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