Last week, in the midst of Anthem pre-release hubbub, EA shared a handy chart outlining the ways different people could play the multiplayer shooter before release. It was… confusing. I mean, not actually confusing. It’s five rows and four columns; understanding it is easier than understanding when you have gym class in high school. But it’s more confusing than just saying the game is out on February 22.
In a landscape where so many publishers needlessly complicate their game launches, offering private betas and early access to people who preorder this version or that, EA’s somewhat staggered Anthem release was bound to provoke a negative fan reaction. And right on cue, the angry comments and tweets followed the image around the Internet, with aggrieved gamers vowing to cancel their preorders and never play the game and light themselves on fire and move to the moon.
But is this fair? Is this a reasonable reaction? As with all things Internet, it’s probably an overreaction. It’s easy to poke fun at the chart, and there’s nothing gamers love more than bagging on EA, but what does the chart really tell us? It tells us there are ways to play Anthem before it releases.
The first column represents a public demo for the game. If the chart had been released a week earlier, it would have had another column for the VIP demo the previous week, available to EA/Origin Access subscribers and people with preorders. Another column represents the ten hours EA/Origin Access subscribers get to play the game without buying it. EA calls this a “trial.” That’s another word for a demo.
Demos. Demos are good, right? They let us try games before we buy them. This is good. Why are we criticizing EA for giving us demos? Because those demos make for a confusing chart? Would we rather have to wait until February 22 and pay for the game to find out if we like it? But not have to look at a chart? These are rhetorical questions?
If people want to nitpick and complain that Origin Access Premier members get the game a week early, that’s fine, I suppose, though it doesn’t seem worth getting upset about. But otherwise, this confusing chart is a good thing. It just means there are various ways to try the game without buying it. Every game should do this. Give me bigger charts. Give me more confusing charts. Make me download a spreadsheet to figure out how I can try a game. Just give me more demos.