Rebuilding The Future: How BioWare Can Bounce Back

Step Three: Table The Sequels, Focus On New IP, And Stop Counting Beans

Finally, BioWare can do something simple, and relatively painless, but will significantly help them to come back strong: create new IP. A lot of it. And do so before continuing to hammer away at the things it might be breaking.

This definitely means letting Mass Effect hibernate for a while. The series is a mostly brilliant, stand alone experience almost wholly unique in the history of gaming. Releasing a sequel too soon after the controversial final chapter in the ‘Shepard trilogy’ will only risk reminding fans of the distaste they felt during that controversy. It will also almost certainly be seen at this point as the franchisization of something special. What people want is something as good as the majority of that series, not something just like a billion other games set in that universe.

Ditto Dragon Age. Dragon Age 3 is a fait accompli at this point, but once that game is finished, let the series lie fallow for a few years. There’s no reason to keep producing content for a series past its natural end, especially at the expense of new IP and especially after what has been a very creative period for BioWare. Starting with 2005′s Jade Empire, BioWare has produced more titles based on original IP than they have licensed titles. However, they haven’t created any new IP since 2009′s Dragon Age Origins. Since then, they’ve released Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Mass Effect 3. Confirmed for the future, they’ve got more SWTOR content, Dragon Age 3, an untitled Mass Effect game, and an unannounced, untitled new IP that probably won’t come out until after DA3 and ME4. And this doesn’t include the dreck coming from Mythic and Victory. Sensing a pattern? The company is becoming very reliant on iterating past successes and licensed titles, not a good sign for a studio once known for their risk taking.

BioWare should put Mass Effect 4 on hold, and focus on this unnamed new IP. In fact, they should release at least one other new game before even considering revisiting the Mass Effect Universe, or Dragon Age 4. Everything should be devoted to making these games as excellent as their previous successes. Furthermore, they need to stop trying to squeeze everything they can out of players. Forget about badly timed DLC, forget about squelching content and features to make room for multiplayer, in short, forget about Electronic Arts’ larger demands, and do what BioWare was purchased to do, which is make great single player games that people talk about for years.

If they do these things, and are successful, they can revisit their past franchises, only this time, they’ll be doing so as heroes, instead of shills. Nothing could more firmly reassert their return to greatness than that.

***

We’re hard on them, but it’s because we know how great BioWare once was. And we know that despite the hard knocks BioWare has taken over the past 18 months, it still remains a prestige name. Yes, owned by EA, their fortunes will ultimately depend on the financial and creative support given to them by the parent company. But despite EA’s reputation, their clear worries about declining stock value, and their obsession with the endless monetization of anything and everything they publish, we also believe EA is still in the business of making games. And they certainly know they’ll make more money from games people actually like than they will from squeezing the life out of their most respected brand. Pessimists, myself included, don’t expect to see BioWare still exist in 5 years, but I still think it can be saved. That fans can be happy. That EA can get a decent return on their original investment.

All it’s going to take is a willingness not to suck.

Follow Ross on Twitter.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

45 Comments on Rebuilding The Future: How BioWare Can Bounce Back

Menthro

On October 24, 2012 at 6:21 am

Sorry, but I just don’t see Step Three happening with EA at the reigns. They’ll look at ME 3 sales numbers and greenlight, or have they already greenlighted?, another Mass Effect. Plus with EA calling the shots, the game will be required to have multiplayer before it’s released. Let alone what they are going to do to the RPG elements, EA looks at the broad audience, sees what they want and like, and makes it for them. They wont look at out niche market of RPG players who actually enjoy looking through an inventory and customizing our weapon of choice, or if they do it will be like what they had in ME 3, which felt to me even worse almost then ME 2′s “inventory”, it felt like they heard or complaints and then did the bare minimum and shoved it into the game just so they could point at it and say “Hey, we listened, we brought back the inventory system”, and please don’t get me started on the journal and the “quest” system they gave us in ME 3. Mass Effect was an RPG with bare shooter elements, Mass Effect 2 was more of a hybrid but you could still stumble upon a mission while “exploring” an uncharted planet, Mass Effect 3? It was a shooter with bare RPG elements.

Daretoask

On October 24, 2012 at 7:18 am

@ Ross:

” Forget about badly timed DLC, forget about squelching content and features to make room for multiplayer, in short, forget about Electronic Arts’ larger demands, and do what BioWare was purchased to do, which is make great single player games that people talk about for years.”

I’m sorry, but that seems like a lot of wishful thinking to me. In the comments of your article on ME4 you made it a point that the underlings rarely have any say in decisions being made by the higher-ups about the overall direction or marketing strategy of an IP, and I agree. But now you expect Bioware to stand up to EA and basically reject their demands and boycott their business model? How is that supposed to work? I mean, how would they even do that, what with being purchased and all? I am not an insider in the gaming industry and thus lack proper insight, so if there is something I’m missing here, please feel free to educate me.

S.J.M

On October 24, 2012 at 7:45 am

Theres no way that release-day DLC is going to be scrapped now, that version of Pandora’s box has been opened and I sadly cannot see it being closed and forgotten about now.

The best thing BioWare (and EA) can do now is to make a new game, free from controversy and as far from being a sequel as possible. Put it on a Disk and sell it with all content included. No DLC, no Origins account requirement, no masses of patches needed. Stop short changing fans/consumers will go some way to repair the damage.

Casey Hudson needs to get his head out of his own Arse too. I recently completed (again) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, its his name at the end as director, and it was a fantastic job done. He’s capable of doing it, but whatever they did then and up to Mass Effect needs to be duplicated and less of the fiasco that has been the last 18months.

Blarty

On October 24, 2012 at 7:52 am

Ross – overall a good and balanced article, but there are a couple of things that aren’t really alluded to in the article that I think are important to note.

Whilst the feedback from BW about ME3 on release was nothing short of ill-mannered and incredulous silence, the amount of vitriol poured out via sites like Twitter, etc can’t be simply pigeon-holed or explained away as a ‘backlash’ – on Twitter, Casey Hudson has more or less backed away from discussing or commenting to the fans based on the comments made by those very same fans. Yes, Bioware deliberately engaged their fans in a way most companies never do, and with the missteps of ME3 and DA2, it’s backfired on them, but by the same token, that can’t excuse some of the mudslinging that ‘s been going on for the last 6 months. So whilst it’s a good idea to ‘re-engage’ with the fans directly, the question is, do Bioware employees want to take the risk again?

Also with regards to sequels, Bioware and EA aren’t the only people guilty of this practice, it’s a general malaise of this generation, every company is falling on bad times, including the once golden goose, Nintendo – sequels unfortunately allow a pre-existing, well-defined, effectively already paid for ‘lump’ of a game to be reused, if a company created new IP after new IP, ultimately if costs cannot be either controlled or recouped, quality will suffer.

There’s no doubt that it will be difficult for Bioware to recover, and pessimism has it’s place, and whilst Bioware needs a willingness not to suck, gamers need a willingness to let them try to achieve that – for example, whilst a lot of gamers dislike the multiplayer aspect of ME3, you can’t deny that them providing, up to this point, all the multiplayer DLC for free (micro-transactions for the impatient gamer aside) is a good thing – it can’t be denied, but also, seemingly, it can’t even be acknowledged.

The degree of schadenfreude that gamers exhibit when in the context of certain companies recently is disconcerting – do we actually want companies to fail, just so we can say ‘I told you so’?

Ross Lincoln

On October 24, 2012 at 8:36 am

Thanks for the feedback guys; to explain a bit, first of all I hope I made it clear in the article that this is a thoughtform, a look at what BioWare could/should do, not what they WILL do. Daretoask is right: this is, in effect, an oped made up of wishful thinking. The intent is to identify the things they really messed up, and suggest how to fix them. Consider it the ‘Bob, maybe if you worked out and stopped telling people about how much you hate your ex girlfriend you’d get more dates” of the video gaming industry.

As for the rudeness of certain fans on twitter, I agree that some people really, really need to dial it down. There is a commenter I won’t name out of respect who took a rather fundamentalist view of the company in a recent post, one that fails to take into account the realities of employment and the industry, and it is indeed frustrating and saddening.

However, when your company is worth the kind of scratch BioWare (and EA) is, when your place in the industry is so lofty, you need to develop thicker skin. Seriously, it’s the first thing I had to develop as a writer. People are often going to disagree, and rudely, sometimes even cruelly. If you can’t take it, you have no business being a writer in the first place. I think the same is quadruple-y(?) true for wealthy businessmen and wealthy creatives. Nothing some angry person on the Internet says can take away your money or your standing in the industry. Disengaging from the community you built doesn’t make you look like you’re taking the high road.

Again, though, I am not justifying the unhinged rudeness exhibited by a few people claiming to be speaking for the fans. Those people need to get some perspective. Stat.

Blarty

On October 24, 2012 at 8:49 am

Ross – thanks for the response, and I completely agree with you over the thicker skin comment, and would add, if you’re going to hype something up and essentially engineer expectations in your fans and then don’t meet them, then you’re accountable for the consequence of that, but I get the feeling that gamers would far rather about it, then attempt to rationally do anything about it, but maybe that’s just human nature in general. Which is one reason I really like this article – it attempts to put forward ideas that are practical and within means, rather than just reinforce the standpoint that all is lost.

But I wonder, if this article is almost too small in scope – given that we can point, with some evidence, to a correlation between the acquisition of Bioware by EA, and the number of failings and missteps since, perhaps there’s a bigger shadow looming – even if Bioware could implement some of these measures – it would be one studio potentially going against a tide in the whole portfolio that EA owns. Surely if the focus was how _EA_ as a whole could do better for it’s franchise’s fans and customers across the board (obviously with the current issues at Bioware in mind) then Bioware bouncing back would be a matter of course, and implicit within that cultural change rather than going against the grain?

Ross Lincoln

On October 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

“Surely if the focus was how _EA_ as a whole could do better for it’s franchise’s fans…”

Your wish is my command:

http://www.gamefront.com/the-history-of-bioware-infographic/

More to the point, I wanted to focus on BioWare specifically, since we’ve already done a bit to imply and state outright the EA problem.

Poor Show

On October 24, 2012 at 8:59 am

BioWare has no interest in ‘bouncing back’. Not while they still have their undying apologists such as Wesker1984, Lilith, Hunter, ‘lol’ and so forth who refuse to see anything wrong with the company and will pre-order every game as soon as they hear the title. Not while their puppets in the mainstream press continue to insult the fans by calling them entitled babies who don’t understand art. And certainly not while EA has ANY influence over anything they’re doing.

You speak about the ‘realities of employment’ in your comment, but where do you draw the line? Are you honestly suggesting that toeing the company line at all times, even if you disagree with it, is just par for the course in modern business? If that’s the case, then your ‘reality’ is not one that I recognise from my own experience, nor is it one that I want to ever encounter. If your employer or your superiors are forcing you to do something that is BLATANTLY wrong, dishonest, and goes against what you’ve spent years of your life striving to achieve, and you just go along with it because you’re too polite or too weak-willed to stand up for yourself? That’s the complete antithesis of business ethics and morality in general, and it’s also the antithesis of artistic integrity. This trend in business needs to be scrutinised at every single opportunity or else we risk losing what little transparency we have left, in the gaming industry or otherwise. To handwave it as ‘rude’ is, frankly, unacceptable.

That’s not to say that some fans don’t go too far, because obviously they do. However, when you’re talking about ‘perspective’, and you apparently don’t see the value in considering the perspectives of the ripped-off customers who spent over a hundred hours over five years and hundreds of dollars of their money to see that piece of guff – not to mention the fact that, in pure gameplay terms, it was literally the opposite of what had been advertised – that’s not a balanced opinion. That’s just playing devil’s advocate for the sake of it, without actually making any effort to play it and instead handwaving it away under overly-simplistic labels.

Face facts – the only people from BioWare with any shred of integrity left have already jumped ship. The rest couldn’t care less what the customers think, they’ll still get their 10/10 reviews and red carpet treatment.

SweetPea

On October 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

Good read, too bad it’s not going to happen.

Axetwin

On October 24, 2012 at 9:40 am

So in other words, look at EA’s game designing model and do the exact opposite.

gasmaskangel

On October 24, 2012 at 10:56 am

I have a feeling that DA3 is pretty much bioware’s last chance to salvage their reputation, and currently there just too little information on it to tell if it’s the last nail in the coffin or struggly back up the slippery slope, if you’ll excues the obscenely mixxed metaphore.

Kyle

On October 24, 2012 at 11:28 am

Here is one thing they can do that is still within the realm of possibility that they should do to restore faith: KotOR 3 and make sure it doesn’t suck or have a bad ending. That one move will right all that is perceived wrong with Bioware for the immediate future.

Swcloud99

On October 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm

@PoorSnow
Dude, its a game. I hope you had fun during those 100 hours, that was the point. Just because Mass Effect was more “Batman and Robin” than “Citizen Kane” doesn’t mean you were ripped off. If it didn’t go up to your standards then you shouldn’t have bought it.
I’m not sad for you, I just think it’s too bad because there was the gem of an idea in there. It’s not the first game that was bad. Do you think that way about every game that’s released because, newsflash, only a small percentage of games could actually be considered good.

R.J.

On October 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I couldn’t agree with Page 2 more. While actually talking to fans early on might not have “fixed” much, it probably would have kept things from exploding like they did. People banded together and kept at the forums because they couldn’t get a real response, and the only choice was to create a louder voice. Saying, “Thanks for the feedback. Was there anything you did like?” on twitter doesn’t count. Unfortunately, DA2 represented the first time that the reputation of the company’s games took a hit, and clearly they didn’t know how to react. Fake reviews, softball interviews, and ignoring things doesn’t make anyone believe you are listening. You don’t have to cater to every opinion, but treating all negative criticism as invalid is just going to make things worse.

While Bioware wouldn’t be able to apply the suggestions on Page 3, it would work if EA applied it. I still think that Bioware could do great things. In the early years of the acquisition, when EA’s influence would have been less overbearing, they turned out good games. If EA loosened its grip and just trusted them to do their thing, I think they have a chance.

Jacob

On October 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Interesting read.

I’m a pessimist, too, especially in regard to ‘Bioware bouncing back’ after the recent messes.

I do think it’s possible, tho’.

Maybe follow in the steps of what CD Projekt RED is doing: options for DRM-free copies of a game, ‘free’ post launch support
I was suggesting, shortly after DA2′s release, that Bioware should make an ‘Enhanced Edition’ for DA2. I think I said the same thing for ME3, but the Extended Cut felt more like a “Here, just to shut you up” effort more than something out of compassion for those angry w/ ME3′s resolution…
I mean, I bought all the DLCs for DA:O (‘cept for the holiday/fest thingy) and all the DLCs for ME2…yet I didn’t feel ‘compelled’ to buy (nor did I) any for DA2 and ME3.
Instead of anticipation for any news from Bioware regarding any future release/content, I now automatically meet it w/ skepticism. I’ve already sworn that I’d no longer pre-order future titles from either EA or Bioware (for the former, I’m thinking of skipping their products altogether).
Compare to how I feel when CD Projekt/GOG have a press con: I’m excited, and I feel TRUST…something I’m sure I had for Bioware some time ago.
Heck, I have more trust for the various personalities hosting crowd-funded projects via Kickstarter!

*sigh*

On the plus side…there are a LOT of other options, and Bioware, as a source of ‘quality RPGs’, can be readily and quickly replaced. :)
(sorry if this was long, rant-y, and incoherent, and thanks to the author of the article for his thoughts)

John Burkhart

On October 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Let’s add a couple more things.

1) Outside of direct threat of physical harm, stop the over-moderation of their forums. Remove the “own the game” requirement that’s driven away all the civil posters.

Let me repeat that.

As long as they’re not advising people to pull out guns, stop deleting posts and banning people. Under-moderation hurts far less than the over-moderations.

2) Try to convince EA to sell Bioware outright.

Otherwise, you can probably bury it; because EA won’t let *any* of your sensible ideas happen.

-John

John Burkhart

On October 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Without someone stepping up to buyout Bioware from EA, you can bury them.

They’ve been shot, and are about the be thrown into the pit.

Hopefully, the doctor’s noncompete clauses have an end-date.

quicktooth

On October 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Good on you Gamefront- this is why I come here. Trying to save a company we love even while it’s being run into the ground :D . I think EA’s investors should (like the top people at BioWare) jump ship as fast as possible. It’s obvious now they’re buying TIME in buying Bioware. Time that is built out of the goodwill gamers have for the companies it’s running into the ground. It clearly can’t make good stuff itself, and destroys the companies it buys with it’s incompetant leadership, so it’s merely trying to prolong the inevitable. Like the top people at BioWare who’ve left, EA’s investors should get out while they still can. And game companies should stay THE H3LL AWAY from EA. Remember the articles discussing how BioWare thought it could be different? Too talented and beloved to be run into the ground by EA? How those articles (and the state of the market) shows it in fact was NOT different? Right. By all means people; try to save Bioware. By all means I’d love the see what I take to be the majority of the company survive and continue to make great games. But please PLEASE EA investors- sell to SOMEONE so that Bioware can survive and you can still stay in credit. Please.

quicktooth

On October 24, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I just read Poor Show’s comment, and I agree with him/her on all points very strongly. Morality is something you DO; a person who doesn’t DO morality just to pay bills, simply doesn’t have a life worth living, nor which they can call their own. Your idea of morality defines what actions you think should be done. If something or someone ELSE does that instead, you HAVE NO LIFE OF YOUR OWN. This is a BIG DEAL. Why the H3LL should you care about a body that isn’t your own paying bills? Don’t you OWN your body? Your actions? You were BORN owning them. No one can take them from you. And remember we ARE our souls, and souls last forever. Starvation is just a SHORT TIME; versus OWNING YOUR OWN BODY AT ALL. if it really were so dire; my brother trained as a games maker, but realizes he’ll only get employed in general computing work. Pretending you should be some kind of wraith to pay the bills or DIE is granstanding and hyperbole of the highest level. It used to be that Real People actually lived their own lives. We DO morality. Live your own life. It’s the only one you have.

GHlino

On October 25, 2012 at 3:47 am

Sorry to say, but Bioware is dead so long time ago… The “EA Effect”, this time, was faster and much more violent than in the past (Origin, Bulfrog, Maxxis, WestWood etc…).

Since the console version of DA:Origin, EA has signed the end of the mithic Bioware.
Mass Effect 2, then, was, to me, one of the greatest disapointment of this generation.
It is still a mediocre corridor shooter with “interactive” cutscene… But as a sequel to that masterpiece that was ME1… Nooooo!

I really feel that Casey Hudson must to move away from there as soon as possible if he wishes to keep on with his career in the VG Industry. Producing ME4 for EA will be the end for him.

Casey if you are reading this, please go away from EA till you can !!!

John Doe

On October 25, 2012 at 6:55 am

It is amazing that the medium first blamed the fans, now do articles in the interest of recovering those same fans to the companies in question.
What about the medium that gave such bluntly bought reviews? How will they recover their reputation?
How can this be fixed when consumers are seen/depicted as “entitled whiners”?

This all seems fallacious to me. Do you want to know how they can recover their and even maybe the medium “journalists” reputation? Very simple, GET MONEY TO MAKE GAMES, not GET GAMES TO MAKE MONEY. The later is the standard in the medium now. The hypocrisy is so high that if you lose a few minutes checking it, you’ll be sickened by it. Where is the love for the medium?
All this? Promotes about the same results…..

markp

On October 25, 2012 at 7:15 am

You’re wrong. Casey Hudson had nothing to do with Jade Empire. Proof? He’s never mentioned in the “making of” documentary. Mike Laidlaw (Dragon Age) and Drew Krypysian were largely responsible for Jade Empire. And Mass Effect 1 was largely Drew’s idea. Casey Hudson didn’t become a “game director” until ME2, just as Drew was leaving, and the series started to fall apart. Interesting. And Mr. Hudson is largely responsible for the DISASTEROUSLY BAD ending to ME3! Are we seeing a pattern here? Your final step for bioware’s resurrection should have been the termination of one Mr. Hudson…..

Danny

On October 25, 2012 at 8:29 am

Bioware is doomed unless they can pull a Bungie and leave EA somehow.

MPSewell

On October 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm

As sad as I am to say it, there is simply nothing Bioware can do to salvage themselves at this point. Ardent fans, like myself, who have followed them since the original Baldur’s Gate will need a LOT of coaxing to return to buying any products from the company.

I still have not purchased DA2, ME3, and I unsubbed from TOR and went back to Rift after about 2 weeks. Their response to our grievances about these abominations was to be as utterly insulting and condescending as possible.

There is simply nothing, and I mean nothing, they can do to bring me back as a customer, and up until DA2, I was a “Buy any Bioware game on release” sort of customer. Without question, without fail, without regret. If they can lose me, permanently, then they can lose anyone. And they have lost a lot. I’m relatively certain that I am not alone in this. I can’t help but wonder if EA knows that Bioware is a sinking ship and that’s why we’re going to see as much rehashed garbage as possilbe, to wring it of every last cent before casting aside the corpse.

Kevin

On October 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm

There’s really none of the genius left in the current iteration of Bioware like when it was founded.

Just like with Blizzard. Barely anyone who worked on II made Diable III. Heck, the staff that worked on the original WoW is basically gone now as well for Mists of Pandaria.

Just a sign of how valuable human capitalism is.

Finally, in regards to page three. In Wrestling, how you put an angle to sleep is one of the most important things. WWE disbanded Evolution at roughly the right time. WCW stuck with the nWo far too long.

Mass Effect is great, but when you are working from a story-based perspective, eventually you end up putting the same story down and go to read something else.

untitled

On October 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm

BioWare is one of the biggest western-RPG developers today. All of their recent releases have received massive critical and commercial success.

Oh wait, a small minority of people don’t like their newer games. Therefore, they must give the middle finger to millions of loyal fans who love what BioWare has done in recent years in order to satisfy a small group of people who have repeatedly shown nothing but disrespect towards the company by constantly insulting them and misrepresenting their work.

This kind of mindset is exactly why BioWare is not going to cater to the obsessive minority who does everything in their power to show BioWare exactly why they’re not worth caring about.

Zach

On October 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm

@Poor Show

Nulltron you can change your name but when you speak with the same sort of diluted conviction about NDA’s, contracts and the real world it won’t hide you.

As we all bloody told you in the last article about Mass Effect and BioWare: discrediting someone’s morals and ethics because they didn’t quit their job over their boss’ single misstep is just insanity.

We all know the ending sucked and we all know that a lot of people inside and outside the company hated it.

Jesus Chr!st people that ending does not have the ability to warp time and space to the point that ruins all the emotional highs you experienced before. That’s like saying a bad break-up somehow retro-actively ruined any emotions you every had for that person.

I love the games industry, I love what games can do and I loved Mass Effect; at the end of the day though it’s still just a game. If you didn’t like the games ending return it and ignore the people that made, don’t spend the next several years opening that wound or it’s never gunna heal.

revan

On October 26, 2012 at 2:44 am

Some great advice for EA in this article. I say EA because, let’s be realistic, Bioware has no say in any decision-making process. With that said, I highly doubt they will listen to anything journalists or fans say or advise. Bioware is just another casefile in a file cabinet of developers EA has squeezed dry and discarded after they had nothing to offer anymore.

I would love for all you have written to find fertile ground in the Bioware parent company, yet we shouldn’t expect much. DAIII will be clear evidence if we are seeing 180 turn, or just a company trying to mislead fans long enough for them to suck the marrow dry out of another once great IP.

Hello

On October 26, 2012 at 7:40 am

Huh, the games associated with Biowares “golden age” are Baldurs gate and Knights of the old republic. Not Mass effect and Dragon age, rather they were the beginning of Biowares decline.

Crazy_Demon

On October 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

This is an excellent and balanced article that lays out three pragmatic and realistic steps that BioWare could take in the immediate future to return it to the ‘golden’ position it held before the release of DA2. Unfortunately, this will not happen.

BioWare is firmly under the sway of EA, more so now than even a year ago. This is due to both the passage of time and the fact that in the minds of many BioWare employees, their fanbase has already abandoned them in the wake of the ME3 ending fiasco, so they cannot expect any out-of-company support from that angle. With EA at the helm, there will be a strong drive for short-term profit at the expense of a more sustainable yet more time and capital intensive long-term growth.

Mr Lincoln, at the end of your article you state that “That fans can be happy. That EA can get a decent return on their original investment.” While this is of course true, the history of EA has demonstrated this won’t happen. BioWare is going the way of Westwood Studios, the gamer loses and its EA’s fault yet again.

R.J.

On October 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm

@untitled

That is the same rhetoric that EA spouts. If this was truly a minority and no big deal, would they have made they Extended Cut and delayed the DLC they planned? Critical success for games has come into major question since so many of those review sites are splattered with ads for the very games they review. Commercial success can be attributed to various things. For instance, pre-order DLC is a favorite method for getting people to buy a game before they read even a single review. Review embargoes guarantee that if sites want to remain viable and keep getting advanced copies for review, they can’t say a word until all those pre-orders have been processed. Just look at what happened with the pricing for ME3. Within two months, the price was cut in half at major retailers like Amazon. That is pretty much unheard of and such drastic price drops are indicative of slowing sales. I’m sure you’ve looked at the sales totals and convinced yourself that since most of the ME3 related polls did not have nearly that many respondents, it must be a minority that was upset. However, most people don’t participate in such things. Whether they liked it, disliked it, or just plain didn’t care is unknown because they didn’t participate. That would be like saying a political election tells you what every eligible voter chose, but that isn’t how it works. They go by who received the most votes among those that chose to participate. So you can speak of majorities and minorities, but you can’t know for certain what most people thought. What can be said is that of those that chose to voice their opinion on the game, most were displeased and this was enough to prompt a change to the game.

Nulltron

On October 27, 2012 at 2:28 am

Zach,

I have not posted under any other name here, since I started posting.

You are hysterical. Get some sleep.

Nulltron

On October 27, 2012 at 2:32 am

The only solution is for the staff to resign en mass, leave Casey Hudson and Mac Walters behind, find an investor in the Far East, and see what games they have left in them.

DeeJayBB

On October 27, 2012 at 4:06 am

Good Article… i agree with the 3 steps.

Roy Batty

On October 27, 2012 at 6:01 am

@RJ

Here, here!

I really thought the ending was a joke when I saw the frantic “joker” sequence. I burst our laughing when I realized they were serious. I laughed even harder when gampspot posted at least 3 freaking articles in support of “artistic license”. (I found gamefront about this time since I thought SOMEBODY must be objective right?)

I require 2 things from bioware before I purchase any more games from them:
1. Casey Hudson must acknowledge that the ending was substandard (not some PR schmuck that is paid to apologize all day)
2. Casey Hudson must state that if the next iteration in the ME universe starts a series that it will not end in the caviler manner that ME3 did (i.e. greater attention to detail is paid).

In a sense Bioware has rebooted the audience of ME. People who were initially attracted to the game were the geeks who devoured the universe they created with relish. Now they are only left with the people who liked it for superficial reasons; action, eye candy, alien sex, or fanbois who simply refuse to give up.

I personally am still watching what is going on because I am fascinated by engineering failures. This ending represents not a failure for EA or Bioware but an INDUSTRIAL failure of the gaming business. Name any aspect of the business and you will see that it failed errr “massively”.

Drizzt

On October 27, 2012 at 9:47 am

I wrote this before and I say it again: we (the gamers and the studios) need a different model of financing (Triple-A) titles. As long as publishers like EA (does anybody remember, that stood for Electronic Arts and there was a time, that claim was true?), which operate a lot like the big film studios or music labels, call the shots and have all the power (or money), we’ll see tons of sequels/remakes/very similar designs, because the success can be calculated to a certain extent.

Luckily there is some light. And projects like Shadowrun Return, Star Citizen and a ton of (smaller) indie games prove, that gamers are usually willing to take the risk (and that is a real one, don’t discount that; that’s the very reason, why the big publishers like to stay with established series and concepts: to minimize their risk, while maximizing their profits) and invest in a game, they’d like to see produced. Even if that project asks for a lot of money. The only downside is: only established designers/producers can really ask for the financing of a AAA title. Because nobody in their right mind would give a few hundred USD/EUR to some unknown kid, no matter how great the technical demo looks.

That brings me to the point, that there is a place for yet another financing model for great games: a non-profit foundation everybody can donate to. That foundation in turn picks (AAA-sized) projects and funds them. The benefits are obvious: even somebody new to the game industry (with a good idea/concept for a game), can produce an awesome experience. The foundation could easily set up contacts with experienced people from the business or hire them directly. And fans wouldn’t have to worry, that if one project fails their donation is wasted entirely (base capital of a foundation is not spent).

Anyway: I’m not sure, the brand BioWare will recover. Not because I don’t think it possible, but more because I don’t see that realistically happen with the demands of a big corporation at the helm. But then, they’re not down yet and maybe they’ll come around one day. Still, the days where I would buy a BW game just because it was a BW game and I was certain it would be awesome, are over.

Cheers,
Drizzt

P.S.: You write in the article, that games like ME and DA:O (“golden age”) were released after BW had been acquired by EA and see that as proof (if I didn’t misunderstand you), that BW could be great even as a part of EA. I’d disagree for two reasons: 1. EA has changed in the meantime (and not for the better) and 2. (without having checked the dates) those games were probably already in development before they’d been bought by EA (EA was just reaping the results).

Michael

On October 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Leave EA.

ootmians

On October 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I think this article would be better addressed to EA rather than Bioware. I doubt it’s a coincidence that all three games you reference in their recent downturn happen to be all the games they’ve completed as a subsidiary of EA. I don’t think all the bean counting and community dissing is happening at Bioware, but I also don’t anticipate any of that changing any time soon.

I also doubt the recent talent exodus has as much to do with fan backlash as it does with the aforementioned merger. It’s pretty standard procedure that, once a company is acquired, employees have to vest their post-merger stock for a number of years before they can cash out. The senior management is usually out the door the second they reach that cliff date, so they can actually collect their money. And they have to agree to a no-competition clause for a certain period after, which is why all of them suddenly claim to be really into fishing or whatnot, rather than jumping right into another company.

ootmians

On October 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

@Drizzt

You’re right about DA:O and ME2 not being a good justification for BW under EA.

Dragon Age: Origins had gone gold before the merger was finalized. It launched a few weeks after, so it had an EA logo attached to it, but it wasn’t developed at EA. Likewise, Mass Effect 2 came out 2 months after the merger was finalized, so clearly it wasn’t developed there either.

Fox Lonestar

On October 31, 2012 at 7:00 am

No offense, but you say a lot of “we” as if people are in agreement with your article. I, for one, am not. I don’t regard Bioware as a great company, and although they had some great games in the past, I think the only ways for them to bounce back is get rid of the offending member, Casey Hudson, and to stop telling their fans to “STFU and like it” for any reason. Hyped-up, advance game reviews from known video game journalists and periodicals clashed greatly with the actually gaming community’s reviews of these games (just look at Metacritic.com on Diablo 3, Mass Effect 3 or Dragon Age 2), and I think people have a feeling that game reviewers just get paid off to endorse a game because some developer “made great games in the past.” I don’t say that with certainty, but the feeling is there, especially when Jessica Chobot is rendered in game (a recognizable IGN.com writer).

For me, Dragon Age 2 pushed me to a limit for penalizing me on gently turning down a come on, but Mass Effect 3 really angered me when everything was brought to light (the DLC, the ending, the requirement to play multiplayer to get the best endings, etc.). Because of that, I don’t buy video games at release anymore, support companies through downloading DLCs anymore, and I read all reviews on the forums and Metacritic to know the complaints, the accolades and the response from the company to support and suggestion. Playing video games is supposed to be about fun, not smacking people down because they’re not enjoying it. I’m just too jaded to much care what happens to Bioware at this point – they’re not getting another dime from me.

untitled

On October 31, 2012 at 9:47 am

@R.J.:

“If this was truly a minority and no big deal, would they have made they Extended Cut and delayed the DLC they planned?”

Because the minority refused to allow fans to enjoy the game. Their belligerent attitude and rampant deceit regarding the ending pronpted BioWare to release the Extended Cut as a measure to get those entitled whiners to shut up. It’s exactly why the Extended Cut was exactly the same ending, merely repeating information that was already presented in the game.

As for the argument that its price dropped: seeing as everywhere I know has and always has had the price at $60, it brings a very important question to the table: why in the world would BioWare listen to a bunch of lying b*****ds who say things that ANYONE can disprove in five minutes?

R.J.

On November 5, 2012 at 9:26 pm

@untitled

Obviously you prefer to stick to your delusions that a fan just gives his money to a company and is only allowed to have positive opinions. A fan is like a friend, the really good ones will let you know if they think you’ve made a mistake so you can do better next time. It isn’t “hating” to articulate all the reasons you disliked something and offer suggestions on how to correct them. That is what is known as constructive criticism. The word constructive is not synonymous with positive. The simple fact is that Bioware did make the extended cut for free and they did delay the paid DLC as a result. These would both be terrible business decisions if there was zero merit to anything that was being said. I’m sorry but I just don’t see where it is at all entitled to voice complaints and to continue to voice them when there was zero response beyond the usual corporate dismissals. But there really isn’t much point in arguing with someone that refuses to see reason.

As for the price drop, apparently you don’t know how to search the internet. I’ll make things easy for you and point out the prices at a couple of major retailers. Amazon $21.89, and GameStop $29.99. Or better yet, just do a Google search under the shopping tab. $30 is the maximum price for the game and that is for the collector’s edition. And don’t bother saying that it’s because the trilogy set is coming out because these prices have been right around the same since before the set was announced. GameStop even ran advertisements basically pleading with people to ignore negative opinions because sales dropped so fast. I really don’t know what you’re talking about “disproving in 5 minutes” since less time showed that this was accurate.

Dennis

On November 19, 2012 at 2:38 am

R.J – don’t bother humouring ‘untitled’. He can’t see the wood for the trees. He has to convince himself that it’s just a small minority who hated the ending (it’s actually a very, very large minority that was a majority before the EC came out) and that it was just about it being ‘confusing’ or ‘not spoon-feeding enough information’ as opposed to a games manufacturer lying to its customers then arrogantly handwaving it and hiding behind the press. He can’t be saved.

srgwriter

On April 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I agree completely. Bioware had a special type of product there for a while and they can get it back. To tell you how much I thought about them, when I played Red Dead Redemption, one of my favorite games of all time, I said it was great but bioware could have done it better. Since then my thoughts have changed that hopefully Rockstar’s new version of the game will have more of an RPG element to it, or another gaming company will make a better Wild West RPG.

Chimney Sweep

On April 24, 2013 at 4:17 am

srgwriter – truth be told, BioWare as it stands today is the LAST company you’d want looking after Red Dead. BioWare’s become so obsessed with choice that it’s completely forgotten about diversifying its content, which is probably why they shat the bed with the ending by giving us something that had no relevance or context to the rest of the series with a choice that didn’t affect anything important about the outcome. Red Dead managed to feel far more epic than ME3 despite being no more than a personal tale of laying demons to rest. BioWare through everything it could at ME3 in the hopes of creating fiat drama, and it fell on its face.