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Report: BioWare Montreal scaled down, Mass Effect series on hiatus

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Report: BioWare Montreal scaled down, Mass Effect series on hiatus

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 May 2017, 01:58:03

Tags: BioWare; Electronic Arts; Mass Effect: Andromeda

As you've probably heard, Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest game in the Mass Effect series, was released back in March. Upon release, the game immediately became a laughingstock due to shoddy production quality and writing. It's not BioWare's first poorly received game, but never before have they suffered such an abject humiliation. Now it seems the time has come to pay the price of failure. Kotaku's Jason Schreier reports that developer BioWare Montreal has been "scaled down" back to its former role as a support studio, and that the entire Mass Effect franchise has been put on ice.

In the wake of BioWare’s polarizing Mass Effect: Andromeda, fans have wondered where the lauded sci-fi series will go next. The answer, according to people familiar with the studio, is nowhere—at least for the time being. BioWare has put Mass Effect on hiatus and turned Andromeda’s developer, BioWare Montreal, into a support studio, according to four sources close to the company.

That doesn’t mean there will never be another Mass Effect game, of course. It’s unlikely that BioWare will kill the popular sci-fi franchise. But BioWare is letting Mass Effect sit for a while rather than putting staff on Andromeda’s follow-up right away, those sources said.

Last month, a number of BioWare Montreal employees were transferred to the studio EA Motive, also based in Montreal, to work on Star Wars Battlefront II. Those remaining at BioWare Montreal will help support BioWare’s other games including the new intellectual property, code-named Dylan, which we expect the company to announce at E3. BioWare Montreal will also continue to patch and support Andromeda’s multiplayer.

BioWare’s main studio in Edmonton is heading up Dylan, while BioWare’s other studio, in Austin, is also helping out with that game.

When reached for comment, publisher Electronic Arts sent over the following statement, attributed to BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy:

Our teams at BioWare and across EA put in tremendous effort bringing Mass Effect Andromeda to players around the world. Even as BioWare continues to focus on the Mass Effect Andromeda community and live service, we are constantly looking at how we’re prepared for the next experiences we will create.

The teams in EA Worldwide Studios are packed with talent, and more than ever, we are driving collaboration between studios on key projects.

With our BioWare and Motive teams sharing studio space in Montreal, we have BioWare team members joining Motive projects that are underway. We’re also ramping up teams on other BioWare projects in development.

There will be much more to come from BioWare in the years ahead.​

Mass Effect: Andromeda, released in March, was originally envisioned as a reboot for the franchise but went through a brutal development process for several reasons including technological challenges and a major scope change late in development, people familiar with the game said.

Reception to Andromeda was lukewarm, and people scoffed at its writing and animation. (Our review called it flawed and uneven.)

Andromeda was also the first game headed up by BioWare Montreal, which was founded in 2009 to help make downloadable content for Mass Effect 2 and 3. Although BioWare’s other two studios, Austin and Edmonton, also contributed to Andromeda, the game’s director, franchise producer, and leads were all based in Montreal. BioWare Edmonton had developed the first three Mass Effect games.

Now, sources say, BioWare Montreal is significantly smaller than it was just a few months ago. Those who didn’t go to Motive will help out with BioWare’s other projects rather than incubating and developing their own.

Earlier this week on an earnings call, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson told investors that the publisher is “very happy with how BioWare is doing, how BioWare is treating Mass Effect. And our expectations for Mass Effect are still strong for the future and the franchise overall.” Wilson also put a great deal of emphasis on “live service” games, of which BioWare’s new IP is one. That’s the studio’s main focus for the time being.​

With the original BioWare Edmonton studio working on the new Dylan IP, which is rumored to be a non-RPG online game, it seems likely that the Dragon Age franchise is on hiatus as well. It's the end of an era, and one which many of us have been predicting for years. Almost twenty years ago, Origin Systems, formerly the world's top RPG studio before it was absorbed into Electronic Arts, found itself outsmarted and outcompeted by a new generation of RPG developers who were more in touch with what PC gamers were looking for. Chief among them, ironically, was a plucky young Canadian studio called BioWare. Origin was transformed into an MMO developer, and shut down a few years later without having released a single new game. Only time will tell if history is repeating itself.

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