Bioware Montreal Has Been Largely Disbanded
Mass Effect: Andromeda was supposed to be the reboot which kicked off another Mass Effect trilogy, yet this week it has been revealed that the series has been prematurely mothballed, and its studio largely disbanded. The game was in development for five years, yet when it shipped people quickly found that character facial animations had taken a huge step backwards when compared to prior games in the series. In fact the facial animation seen in Andromeda‘s retail code has been shown to be a huge step backwards in comparison to the game as it existed in its alpha build. On top of that the game features some of the cringiest SJW dialogue ever seen in a game, to the extent that even a fair number of SJWs were unhappy with it.
All of these factors combined into a deeply unsatisfactory game, which went on to garner middling reviews, and mediocre sales. EA expected Andromeda to sell three million copies in the first week, and a further three million copies over the next year. Instead the game has just managed to scrape its way to one million units sold after its first two weeks on sale. This is not a great return on five years of development time.
Now the poor performance of Andromeda has seen the Mass Effect series put on hold indefinitely, and the majority of Bioware Montreal staff transferred to EA Motive in order to work on Battlefront II. The remaining Bioware Montreal staff will be continuing support of Andromeda‘s multiplayer, as well as providing support to Bioware Edmonton. EA had this to say:
“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.”
With Mass Effect: Andromeda Bioware Montreal had the opportunity to get out from behind the shadow of Bioware Edmonton and become their own self-contained development studio – but they chose to focus more on virtue signalling and diversity hires than they did on actually making a good game. They hired a living meme of a Mary Sue writer to pen the game’s story, and they hired a cosplayer with no professional experience to animate character faces. They have succeeded in tanking the Mass Effect franchise, and have been reduced to a husk as a result.
The one silver lining is that they can at least serve as an object lesson to other developers regarding what happens when a studio is allowed to become high on their own farts. Either EA or Bioware Edmonton should have been monitoring the situation and intervened at some point, but instead Bioware Montreal was allowed enough rope to hang themselves, and hang themselves they did.
Square Enix Rewarded for Mediocre Development
This week Square Enix is celebrating a roughly twenty percent increase in net sales year-on-year. In 2016 net sales were at 214.1 billion yen, This has increased to 256.8 billion yen in 2017, which is about 2.248 billion USD. Square Enix is crediting major releases such as Final Fantasy XV, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for this result. This is in spite of the fact that the latter two games underperformed, with Mankinkind Divided performing poorly enough for Square Enix to mothball the Deus Ex series in favour of having the team work on licensed Marvel games.
What really hurts here though is acknowledging how successful Final Fantasy XV‘s results have been for the company. The game was released in a blatantly unfinished state, and now even six months after release it is still receiving patches which change the fundamental content of the game. Final Fantasy XV will never receive enough patches to make the game good though. The Lusipurr.com staff is galled at having to acknowledge having paid into the success of a game that was an absolute slap in the face for series fans.
Square Enix Is Looking to Part Ways with IO Interactive
While Square Enix are making out like bandits on the back of Final Fantasy XV‘s success, not all of their financial reporting was positive. This week the company had to announce an extraordinary loss of 4,898 million Yen, or around 43 million USD. This came from the company expunging IO Interactive from their books as an asset. Square Enix is currently in talks to find a buyer for IO, but failing that they will more than likely be shuttered.
“1.The cause and nature of the extraordinary loss
To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios. As a result, the Company has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of IO INTERACTIVE A/S, a wholly‐owned subsidiary and a Danish corporation, as of March 31, 2017. This decision has resulted in booking of the extraordinary loss amounting to 4,898 million yen, including disposition of the content production account related to the business and impairment loss of intangible assets, in the financial results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017.
As a result of this the Company started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment. Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interests of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole.
2.Effect on the financial results
The above‐mentioned extraordinary loss has been fully reflected in the financial results announced today as the ‘Consolidated Financial Results for the Fiscal Year Ended March 31, 2017 (Japan GAAP).’”
IO’s most recent game Hitman (2016) was released under a really weird episodic model, where game levels were released in piecemeal fashion via digital download. The game’s collected levels were eventually released physically as a boxed game, but this only ended up selling 500,000 copies across PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It is unknown how well the game performed digitally, but it must have been pretty poor if this is the result.
Releasing levels for a few dollars months apart is a very bad release model, as it gives gamers plenty of opportunity to put the game down and not pick it back up. Games like Resident Evil Revelations 2 might have done well under this model, but that is because the game was finished ahead of actually releasing, and so was able to consistently release one episode per week over the course of a month. By contrast, releasing episodes with up to two and a half months intermission between installments allows all excitement surrounding the game to completely dissipate – and thus only the hardcore fans pay their way to the end.
IO’s prior game to Hitman (2016) was the well-received Hitman: Absolution, which sold 4.1 million copies across PS3, 360, and PC. It is for this reason that one really hopes that the decision to go episodic was made by IO Interactive themselves and not square Enix, because it looks like this decision might very well end up killing the studio, and so it would be fundamentally unfair if it was something forced onto them by Square Enix.