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.
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