And It Begins: BioWare Mythic Reverts Back To Mythic

A few weeks ago, we presented several suggestions for how BioWare could bounce back from a troubled recent history full of painful missteps. Among our recommendations, we urged BioWare to disassociate itself from unrelated Electronic Arts subsidiaries that had only been rebranded as BioWare for marketing reasons. Consider us officially surprised by our own prescience, because it appears that BioWare is beginning to do just that. However, given the circumstances under which we’re finding out about it, we wonder if instead of a revitalization, we have reached what may be the beginning of the end of BioWare’s privileged place within Electronic Arts.

BioWare Mythic, the studio tasked with bringing Warhammer Online to life, issued a very understated announcement yesterday that, effective immediately, it is reverting to its original name, Mythic Entertainment. “In the wake of a new focus,” the announcement cryptically says, “our studio has recently changed its name from BioWare Mythic to Mythic. Everything else stays the same – our passionate teams will continue to support and develop our existing titles as well as working on some new and exciting projects.”

Founded in 1995, Mythic Entertainment was acquired by EA in 2006. In early 2010, it was renamed ‘BioWare Mythic’ as part of the newly created ‘BioWare Division’ within EA. Why Mythic has now been taken out of the protective embrace of BioWare’s still-somewhat good name was not revealed. Indeed, the announcement treats the reversion almost as an afterthought, something that is already old news, but that the company wanted to clarify, you know, just in case we missed it. What, precisely, that ‘new focus’ is remains unexplained, but as Mythic insists everything they’re doing remains otherwise the same, it’s obvious that BioWare is at the center of it.

Since 2010, BioWare’s once stellar reputation has declined considerably. The renaming of Victory and Mythic, along with the diluted RPG elements of Mass Effect 2, contributed to a growing perception that core studio values were being compromised away in pursuit of a broader audience. Things got worse for BioWare in 2011 with the release of a deeply flawed Dragon Age 2. Rife with technical glitches, and clearly rushed out before it was actually complete, BioWare followed it with some of the most obtuse behavior it could have made in response to fan outcry. Clearly, the company needed a big year to make up for all of this, and they hoped that year would be 2012. Unfortunately, instead of triumph, 2012 has been absolutely brutal.

The growing discontent from core customers erupted into open revolt after the infamously terrible ending of Mass Effect 3. (No numbers have been released, but the there is strong evidence that the controversy hurt sales of the game significantly). Things worsened when Star Wars: The Old Republic was (perhaps prematurely) declared a flop and forced into a humiliating free to play conversion without being given even a year to become profitable. But if any doubt remained that things are very uncertain behind the scenes, it should have been erased forever by the surprise departure of numerous high level staff, including the developer’s two cofounders.

If BioWare wants to restore its reputation for great games, not to mention the relationship with its customers, it clearly needs to make some serious decisions. While we can’t claim credit for yesterday’s announcement, it certainly sounds like a step in the right direction. Hopefully the unbranding of BioWare Victory will follow. Of course, there’s another possibility. It could also mean that EA is in the process of gutting BioWare entirely. For now, all eyes are on Dragon Age 3.

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This has been BioWare Beat, Game Front’s ongoing look into the… evolving fortunes of the studio behind Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2.

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4 Comments on And It Begins: BioWare Mythic Reverts Back To Mythic

R.J.

On November 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Not too surprising, the idea of a Bioware division has quickly lost the benefits it might have had. Branding can be a two way street. Companies want you to associate all their products with each other through consistent use of logos and brand naming, and they want that association to be positive. However, that goes the other way, too. If you have a bad experience with some products bearing a certain label, are you really going to trust other products with the same label. I know it is rough on teams to get hit with the damage caused by other teams, but the fact is EA wanted everyone to gobble up all these games based on the goodwill that came with the Bioware name. Now that the name is associated with the biggest backlash in gaming history, I would certainly start making changes, even if they are just superficial changes.

Kevin

On November 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Gotta look at sales to. Dragon Age 2 flopped, so much so that they scrapped a lot of their post-dlc plans. While Mass Effect 3 wasn’t a flop, the suits at EA agreed, it way underpeformed expectations. And TOR, while not a “flop” in terms of raw sales, was a flop in terms of investment. They lost a ton of money.

Part of this is an overemphasis on advertising and marketing. I don’t know how much it cost to shoot copies of Mass Effect 3 into space, but was it really worth it?

Kami

On November 8, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I just get the sense that people are running from BioWare, and it stands there dazed and confused why everyone is watching it and cheering – and BioWare is waving back and blowing kisses to the crowds, unaware that they’re quite likely about to be hit by the ten-ton truck of EA.

There is something actually quite morbid about it all. It’s the anticipation, the expectation. The seeds have been sown and people can smell blood. What will actually happen? I don’t know. But everyone wants to see what happens next. The tension in the air is starting to become tactile.

EA have history. Bullfrog… Westwood… Origin… at least Henry VIII only beheaded two of his wives. People have seen it before. Even if BioWare do manage to survive… look at Origin. The name may have residual value. But that will be all.

I feel bad for anyone working under BioWare’s banner right now. Because like a lot of people, they must be aware of what people think is coming. And that, truthfully, is no way to go to work in the morning. You all have my deepest thanks for all you have done and continue to do. I will be thinking of you and wishing you all the best.

R.J.

On November 9, 2012 at 12:12 am

@Kami

Agreed. It’s unlikely that the folks at Bioware are unaware of the track record EA has with other developers, and I would think that at least some of them would recognize that we are seeing the pattern repeat itself. To a certain extent, I wonder if the Doctors’ departure came partly because they realized that this could very realistically happen to the company they made and they didn’t want to stick around for it. Besides them, Bioware has lost other prominent members of the company since EA took over. I don’t think it is any coincidence that long-time employees that had enjoyed successful careers with Bioware decided to leave when they did, even if the game they were working on wasn’t finished.