Is BioWare trying to repair its brand?

Quick little thought for today’s (tonight’s?) blog post.  Greg Zeschuck shifted/moved/transitioned/whatever away from BioWare Austin.  Now it’s probably going to be called EA Austin.  We’re wondering if this is an attempt to help fix BioWare’s name, restrengthening its brand, by distancing BioWare proper from these (mostly) EA dealings.  BioWare has been attached to a lot of  games that aren’t necessarily ‘BioWare’ games, like assuming control of Mythic and becoming … BioWare Mythic?

SWTOR was a  hit to the studio’s reputation.  Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2 aren’t shining stars on their record either.  A lot of stuff is being branded under BioWare’s flag — a lot of stuff  that doesn’t belong there — and EA’s infamous taint is starting to show as the BioWare name becomes a name to slap on a box; Command and Conquer Generals 2 being an example.  You can’t discredit what BioWare made in the past, but the direction one of our most beloved companies has gone these past years is disappointing.

Hopefully this might be some signal that the powers in charge of BioWare are trying to plot a much needed course correction.

  • I can only agree wholeheartedly with Keen. The Bioware name is floundering badly and it will require some careful management to repair. I think Bioware needs to go back to its core strengths and develop a strong title that will revitalise the company. Nothing good has come out of the EA merger except maybe a bigger dividend and paypacket for the two Doctors.

  • Yup, IMO Bioware is long dead hasn’t done anything good since BG2, let them die and EA can continue raping the name.

  • I’ve played mostly Bioware games the last few years and I think they’re great fun.

    Dragon Age Origins was amazing, tons of locations, lots of depth of play, so many aspects to that game, I spent over a year on it. DA2 has lots of fighting (playing it now) but not (yet) my favourite. I loved all the Mass Effects (haven’t finished 3 yet but the first few hours were amazing.) TOR was OK. KOTOR was addicting.

    Bethesda’s crash to desktop bugs are infuriating, particularly on Game of the Year Editions. Their camera often makes me seasick picking up loot.

    It makes no sense to me to have Bioware tackle the RTS genre.

  • There is something off with Bioware games the last few years for sure. The RPGs they made in the old days felt like a pen and paper experience in computer game format and were tons of fun.

    I never got more then a few hours into Dragon Age II and just felt the experience was not very deep and I never even bought Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 2 was a fantastic game but it already at that point was showing signs of being RPGlite.

    I certainly hope they pull back from EA a bit and go back to what made them one of the greatest RPG makers of the day. Of course the emphasis on consoles hinders that in my opinion.. but I am just an old pc gamer set in my ways.

  • EA is what it is do to market and structural forces, i do not think it will let Bioware be free. They have even tried to move away from their old habits but cant. I think they will continue to juice bioware until the name means nothing.

  • Bioware went the way of Westwood and Bullfrog.

    Once great now the name Bioware is just a marketing tool for EA.
    If they could they would slap it on a turd and charge 60$ for it.

    I miss Westwood and Bullfrog…

  • I’m always confused by posts like this. What the heck are these ‘EA Dealings’ they’re going to be seperating themselves from? SWTOR is a completely a Bioware game (or at most a Bioware/Lucas game), it’s been that way from the start. (I’m fond of the game, but lets be honest it’s failures, like it’s very un-mmo hangup on cutscenes and conversations, are very Bioware failures) It’s not like EA is stealth-building these games and slapping a Bioware label on them. Where would the non-Bioware designers even come from? The closest EA has to a stereotypically in-house studio is Visceral or Maxis, and none of BW’s recent efforts feel like the product of those studios.

    The most EA likely did was say “Here’s a bunch of money and the SW license. Build an MMO to challenge WoW”, and then run the marketing campaign. Unless we’re assuming that Bioware got worse just by hanging out in the vicinity of EA marketing and promotion, by osmosis or something.

    To the extent that other projects aren’t ‘real’ Bioware (Bioware Victory does seem like a rebranded version of the Victory studio) those studios are producing…pretty much what they built before Bioware came in.

    I swear, I just don’t get the weird ‘stick it to the man’ attitude gamers have towards EA. Give it another few months and gamers will be ascribing illuminati-like levels of spooky malignant influence to EA.

  • @Shutter From the look of the effort put into your reply I assume your not trolling.

    EA buys once good companies and within no time they start to produce games that get unworthy successors of the popular games before it to the point they hardly recognize their beloved franchise.
    And that is where the dislike/hate/grudge comes from.

    People think that if EA did not buy those companies they would still be making good quality games.
    Greed over quality.

    Btw if SWTOR is a good game, then where did the subscribers go?
    People voted with their wallet.

  • @Shutter

    Is isn’t a weird “stick it to the man” mentality. It is simple fact. Things EA digs their claws into enter a nosedive of fail. EAs penchant to re-release the same old titles constantly does not transfer well to the PC community. Madden 43 is fine, for console folk. They like that kind of thing. PC Gamers actually desire a bit more thought and effort put into their entertainment.

    Coupled with the fact that a publisher is indeed simply a corporation that wants to make money BECAUSE of other corporations, and you get the quantity over quality saying to a T. EA simply modifies the end desires of companies they acquire, changing them from quality production to ship-it-now-for-quick-return.

    Can you think of anything off the top of your head that was a success on PC that had EA attached to it? Battlefield franchise? Good idea behind them, but DICE is constantly forced to release way ahead of schedule, resulting in the buggiest FPS/Physics Engine I’ve seen… every time. I can’t think of anything personally, so no it isn’t just unbiased hatred for EA. There is merit.

  • EAs penchant to re-release the same old titles constantly does not transfer well to the PC community. Madden 43 is fine, for console folk. They like that kind of thing. PC Gamers actually desire a bit more thought and effort put into their entertainment.

    XD Wow… your generalization about console gamers is ridiculous.

  • @Zyler Well, first, I didn’t say SWTOR is good, I said I was fond of it. I think it’s performance in subscribers is right about where it should be for the game quality (Lower than WoW, better than everything else, and worse than EA wanted (needed?) it to be). I do however think all of it’s probably are pretty easily identifiable as coming out of Bioware. I can’t see anything that went wrong that looks like something pushed on the dev team from outside (from what industry scuttlebut I have, if anything the problem seemed to be too much reliance on dev ‘instinct’). The only thing I can see EA perhaps doing is pushing for release, but even then, Bioware doesn’t have the bottomless cash cows of Blizzard or Valve to postpone release until everything is perfect.

    I guess my problem is that “People think that if EA did not buy those companies they would still be making good quality games. Greed over quality.” seems utterly fanciful to me. Next to no one has a perfect track record in video games, it’s a 10 flops to 1 hit industry, just like the movies. EA buys good studios (because why buy bad ones), it’s almost inevitable that some produce some duds after acquisition. Frankly, them being owned by EA is probably the only reason we get to complain about sub-par games rather than complaining that another promising studio got shuttered because of one poorly received game.

    @Rawblin Well, first off, most of that’s not true. (Which isn’t to say that I’m in love with EA’s current release schedule, I’m a bit meh on a lot of it, but I don’t see how you blame it on money grubbing quantity over quality.)

    First, it’s just not true that the PC community doesn’t want the same thing every year. ‘You’ might not want it, but just like Day-0 DLC that so many people complain about enough folks are voting with their wallet to show that absolutely people ‘want’ AAA Shooter 2012 even though they bought AAA Shooter 2011.

    Secondly, EA’s drastically reducing the quantity of games they make (that’s probably my biggest complaint about their release slate, it’s so small). 3-4 Years ago, EA released, what? 20-30 different titles? This year it’s probably barely in the mid-teens. (Though frankly they’re better games)

    As for AAA PC successes: Battlefield, Mass Effect, Sims (yeah, it’s not hardcore, but a crapton of people play that franchise), Crysis, and anything produced by Valve (yep, EA’s their publisher too, since Sierra went bust). You know what’s gotten flushed down the toilet by the PC gaming community? Amalur, Mirror’s Edge, Spore. Stuff that wasn’t a direct sequel.

    I’m not saying that EA’s perfect, or that I wouldn’t like them to be better. It’s just silly that ‘better’ for a lot of people is ‘Blowing AAA money to develop games that will reach indie sized audiences’.

  • Sorry Graev, I’ve always had a penchant to lash out at consoles as a source of problems for the PC Community.

    I’ve always preferred indie studios over the larger ones. Maybe my issue is thinking that the next bigtime game being released will have anywhere close to the great things seen from many indie developers. Inevitably, those indie companies that succeed start to produce the same mulch of everyday games seen from the bigwig companies. Perhaps that is just the way it is? The lifecycle of a gaming company?

    Not sure, I just know that DAoC, Counterstrike, DayZ (On the Fence), Minecraft, and a few up and coming things like Mechwarrior Online, and Infinity (Way out there) all fall into the indie development category. And they are the type of quality I am looking for. DayZ admittedly has a lot of tools waiting to be added in so that people can actually affect the world, but the idea is solid.

    Perhaps the problems that we associate with EA are more of an employee shifting when they attach to studios? Maybe the people at the top sign the contract and get x times more cash than they were, but EA is only willing to fork over the same cash that was being invested previously…. so employee cuts happen, losing talent in the interest of the higher ups wanting more money? Just spitballing here, I’ve certainly never sat in a board meeting when EA was offering to buy out my company.

  • Shutter EA is not going to funnel tons of money into a company and say HERE YA GO. Why do you think Bioware has been releasing shallower games with larger mass appeal? Could it have anything to do with a businessman on top pushing for?

    That is not some insane theory that is something that happens in most industries with acquisition by large entities. This same thing happens in music, movies and just about any creative medium. Denying it is like sticking your head in the sand.

    Jade empire is a dud, the latest bioware games are corporate streamlining.

    To be straight honest this comes down to the fact EA cannot make good games. They can only buy companies that do and in the end push their quality down in order to make a faster profit.

  • I am so sad. Bioware a great Canadian success story ruined by EA. I think they should have focused on improving Dragon Age so that DA2 was as good as Baldur’s Gate, which they could have done with some tweaking. Instead, we get a long line of ‘lacking’ games Dragon Age 2 and SWTOR to name a couple.

    Beyond sports, games EA needs to stop making games altogether. When I see EA tagged on a game now, I just cringe.

  • The big problem with EA is that it wants to make games for the masses. It wants each game to appeal to as big a sector as possible. The end result is a game that appeals to nobody. EA is not the only game company to do this.

    Biowares initial games were very niche, appealing to a smaller section of the gaming community. They could focus on making them as good as possible for that group. With EA overseeing things, their games become mass marketed and craptacular. You can’t make a good RPG appeal to the mass market, its a niche. EA does not understand this.

  • I’m not saying that new corporate owners pushing for cheaper more profitable products isn’t a common occurance, I just don’t think there’s a lot of evidence for it in Bioware/EA’s case. Are you really suggesting that the problems with SWTOR or ME3 are that there wasn’t enough money ploughed into them?

    I think wufiavelli and Solarbear are right that there was probably a push from EA to have new games pull in a larger audience, but I think it’s pretty unlikely to think that got forced on the Bioware guys. It seems equally crazy that the devs were sitting there saying “No! We’re totally happy with our current audience, we don’t want anyone else at all to buy the product we just spent 3 years of our lives making.”

    I dunno, I guess I look at EA/Bioware and everything I can think of that EA is capable of doing (controlling funding, giving broad mandates to attract more players, etc.) aren’t the causes of the problems that exist. And the things they can’t control, like design decisions, are (and lets be honest, the finance department at EA is not making Bioware design decisions, all the EA game designers who could potentially meddle in acquired companies are off being designers on their own games).

    I may be biased of course, since I don’t think Bioware has had a complete slide in quality. But then I’m one of the six people who think DA:O was an unplayable pile of tedium and DA2 was quite fun.

  • @ Solarbear

    I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think that’s the issue. BioWare sold about 4 million KOTOR. It sold 4 million ME1. It sold 4 million DA:O. It sold 4 million ME2 before EA got their hands too far into BioWare. They sold 4 million ME3.

    What I see is a gaming company that, despite the market more than doubling (close to tripling) since KOTOR, is losing market share in the gaming market. Four million sales may have been spectacular in 2004ish… But when the market has tripled and your nearest competitor (Bethesda: Morrowind — 4 million copies; Oblivion 8 million copies; Skyrim – 12 million copies) has maintained its market share, you’ve got face facts — you’re doing something wrong and churning your fan base.

    But instead of doing that, they double down on making bad movies. Which, to me, is the core problem. I don’t feel like I’m playing a game for me (within the reasonable limitations computer games face). And I did with BG1 and BG2.

    What I feel like is I’m watching D-List actors in poorly done CGI films.

    And when the first playthrough is over… Nothing is compelling or flexible enough about these D-list semi-interactive movies for me to say ‘hey, let’s do this again, only with this kind of character…’ because I know I’m going to be stuck doing the same things, with the same ham-fisted writing, with the same ham-fisted plot over-and-over-and-over again.

    In short, there’s no room for me. BioWare took control of the game and I’m spectator in a third-rate, semi-interactive CGI movie.

  • I actually quite enjoyed DA2 and ME3, despite the fact that doing so makes me some sort of internet pariah for enjoying fun things. But they are definitely abusing the Bioware brand by slapping it on things they really are only peripherally related to. I’d be happy to see that stop.