I’m concerned for the developers at BioWare. For the past couple years we’ve had glimpses of the next Dragon Age. Just over a week ago at The Game Awards, we got a teaser trailer for a new Mass Effect title… before we’ve even gotten a release date for the next Dragon Age, or better yet, the Anthem reboot, which seemingly everyone has forgotten about.
We’re currently going through a moment with CD Projekt Red and Cyberpunk 2077, where years of hype and astronomically high expectations have left many disappointed that the game they were promised isn’t exactly what they got (even though, by pretty much all accounts, it’s still a great game on PC). Now, the company is left with top-level management that seems to have serious issues to work out and, most likely, a stressed and burnt-out development team. It’s a story that’s become all too familiar for teams working on these massive and ambitious AAA projects.
When Geoff Keighley said they had one more surprise announcement at The Game Awards, I had a feeling it was the next Mass Effect, and I could only feel a knot growing in my stomach for the developers at BioWare.
Mass Effect: Andromeda launched in 2017 to myriad technical issues and general disappointment. Likewise, after years of hype, Anthem launched in 2019 as a shell of the game it was promised to be, and now the developers are working on whatever the “Next” version of that game is. That reboot is arguably the most important game BioWare is working on right now, just to show it’s got its act back together.
Except it’s also working on Dragon Age.
It’s also working on Mass Effect.
Yes, I’m aware there are multiple development teams within BioWare split between Edmonton and Austin working on these projects, and yes, Mass Effect is also only going into pre-production while Dragon Age is in full production. Either way, you have to wonder if BioWare is the one making the call to announce these games, or if once again it’s coming from out-of-touch management acting like BioWare isn’t a studio that didn’t just suffer two excruciatingly painful game launches — one that even now it’s still recovering from.
Yet here we are, already hyping up the studio’s next two video games before we’ve seen anything in action from the studio. Already generating high expectations for a studio that absolutely just needs the time to work in the dark and reveal things when it’s ready.
Part of me suspects they’re announcing these projects early so that fans get invested in them and provide the developers with a boost of encouragement and excitement, as well as to change the narrative about a studio that’s been rocked by rebooted projects, changes in management, and EA’s meddling over the years.
Forgive me if I come off as overly cautious, but BioWare announcing the next Mass Effect at The Game Awards just left me more concerned for a studio that I truly don’t want to see fall apart. As exciting as new game announcements are, after seeing what Cyberpunk 2077 and its developers are going through, I’m a bit out of hype to give for multi-year-long marketing campaigns for games that just don’t exist yet.
The situation currently happening with CD Projekt Red is a situation no developer wants to go through, yet it just keeps on repeating itself with studios announcing projects too early, promising too much, releasing all this marketing material to hype people up that will inevitably lead to disappointment, people that aren’t actually working on the floor setting unrealistic deadlines… The list really does just go on and on.
Just reading the new Bloomberg report that came out about the internal meetings happening at CD Projekt Red made me wonder how many other development teams have gone through the very same thing. One wonders how many times developers have expressed their concerns to management, who in turn just looks at them and tells them they’ll take vague “responsibility” — and then the developers return to their workstations to fix the problem that management is already responsible for.
I’m sure every big studio and publisher around the industry is watching what’s happening with CD Projekt Red, and BioWare specifically has a chance right now to dial things back a bit and make sure it’s focused on getting Anthem retooled and out the door to rebuild the trust and respect the studio once had.
I hope it all turns out in BioWare’s favor and that both the people working there and the people excited about these new projects keep the developers’ well-being in mind. Because as excited as I am to play new entries in both the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises, I can’t help but feel this is the wrong way to go about it for a studio that everyone wants to succeed.