In news that will surprise precisely no-one who has been playing any sort of attention, the recent disaster epic that was the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda has claimed what looks to be one of its final victims; the very company that developed it, BioWare Montreal.
Rumours were circulating at the beginning of July that the game’s well-publicised problems (covered in any number of satirical articles or videos, such as CrowbCat’s or PewdDiePie’s) would lead to plans for DLC adding to either single- or multi-player modes being axed. At the time Electronic Arts, the owners of BioWare, shut down such rumours, but it could not cover up or deny a slow trickle of information that seemed to spell doom for the team behind Andromeda. With the idea of a sequel quietly put out to pasture, and then the entire Mass Effect franchise being placed on ‘hiatus’ in May, the clock certainly seemed to be ticking for BioWare Montreal. Time, at last, seems to have run out.
One should not necessarily interpret this development as the team behind the latest Mass Effect instalment being ‘fired’; they will instead become part of Jane Raymond’s EA Motive Studios, working on no less a game than the upcoming Battlefront 2 (or rather Battlefront 2: 2 after the 2005 game, which I will never neglect to mention when the topic of the ‘rebooted’ series comes up). An EA press statement published by Destructoid mentions ‘many exciting roles and opportunities for everyone on the team’. How much of this is euphemistic remains to be seen. I’ll refrain from getting into the many political arguments that surrounded Mass Effect: Andromeda, since you’ve probably heard them all already or can easily find if not, but on a purely technical level the mockery and disbelief that Andromeda received was largely justified and has to be a black mark against its developer’s legacies.
BioWare Montreal is hardly the first studio to slip up and be consumed by the ravenous EA dragon; a famous example of another company that suffered a similar fate is Pandemic Studios, who ironically worked on the original Star Wars Battlefront games. The sad end to the bizarre tale of Mass Effect: Andromeda is, however, one of the more prominent examples of such a failure in recent times. That failure was not in a financial sense; a recent report by EA claims Andromeda ‘generated net sales of $111 million’ across various platforms. It was not even particularly a failure in the critical sense, averaging a Metacritic score of 73% across the three major platforms. But as a cautionary tale of the dangers of handing out a major franchise to a company’s C-team, of gambling an IP’s future on sheer brand recognition, and of simply hoping that consumers will stand for such obvious deficits of quality in the age of the internet, the game’s failings become all too apparent. BioWare Montreal may have shot for the stars with Mass Effect: Andromeda, but it looks like re-entry is going to prove a hard landing.
But they’re only human, after all. Don’t put the blame on them.