How Anthem's 'dynamic' store and microtransactions work

Anthem, Electronic Arts' shared-world role-playing game (RPG) has arrived. The all-new franchise is already shaping up as a robust class-based experience, driven by tight gunplay and the hunt for coveted loot. And with free updates going forward, it aims to leverage optional monetization to support the title.

Here's a breakdown of Anthem's microtransactions and how they work.

Related: Anthem's team talks ambitions, and future plans

Anthem's microtransactions are only cosmetic

After the Star Wars Battlefront II loot box fiasco, infamously compromising game balance via monetization, Electronic Arts has hit the brakes in 2019. Anthem's micropayments shift to exclusively cosmetic items, switching up the style of your Javelin exo-suits.

Anthem features two currencies at launch, "Coins" earned in-game as you progress, and premium "Shards" obtained with real-world money. All cosmetic items can be purchased with Coins or Shards, avoiding cosmetics gated behind a cash barrier, and without randomized loot boxes, what you buy is what you get.

Anthem's cosmetics span various categories, from armor variants, vinyl skins, and textures for your armor. Emotes also feature, bound to three directional pad buttons. And when customizing your loadouts and cosmetics through "The Forge" hub, a small pool of cosmetics can be directly purchased through the "Buy" tab. However, color customization is all free via a color picker.

Anthem's Featured tab cycles through a pool of limited-time cosmetics.

Anthem's Featured tab cycles through a pool of limited-time cosmetics.

A prominent component of the microtransaction approach EA is taking is the "Featured" menu, a dedicated marketplace with a rotating library of cosmetic items.

Anthem doesn't feature a traditional expansive storefront packed with hundreds of items to browse. This Featured tab instead serves as its flagship store page, displaying just six cosmetic items available for Coins or Shards. Although subject to change, this dynamic inventory currently refreshes every six hours, as presented in the top left-hand corner of the screen.

Speaking to Windows Central, Ben Irving, Anthem lead producer, further expanded on what the Featured tab entails, over a traditional marketplace.

So the Featured page is meant to be like in a retail store sale, or whatever. It's there for a limited time, and then it will rotate. So like, "Hey, if you want this thing, there's a time limit, and then it's gone." And it may come back again – it may be tomorrow, it may be next week, it may be in six months. But we'll rotate the things we have available to keep it fresh for players.

This approach allows BioWare to serve new content regularly, every time you boot up Anthem. Players will always have new options to browse and recent additions can be easily presented upon release. However, it's also clear how this fosters a sense of urgency when you buy, pushing impulse purchases.

This Featured section can also feel a little invasive, displayed as the first tab upon opening the pause menu. It means you'll need to skip past to store to access the game's world map, social, and settings tabs. But, with a snappy user interface, its presence shouldn't be a deal-breaker.

The road to Anthem

What are your thoughts on Anthem's store and monetization? Do you think the featured tab is invasive or are you happy to splash some cash to keep the game alive? Let us know your opinion on the approach in the comments section.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.