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Ex-BioWare Developer Says Anthem is an Example of EA's Monetization Plans

"It's not a traditional-looking BioWare game, right?"

News by Matt Kim, .

Although EA never said it outright; it was strongly implied that the reason the company shuttered Visceral Games and took over the Triple-A, single-player Star Wars game that was in-development was because EA is moving towards more open-world, multiplayer games. Not really a surprise according to ex-BioWare developer Manveer Heir in a recent interview with Waypoint over the weekend.

The news that EA was shutting down Visceral Games came as a shock, but not necessarily a surprise to many within the video game industry. Not a lot had been shared about the Visceral Star Wars game (codenamed "Ragtag") aside from a few production stills. The open letter from EA's executive vice president Patrick Soderlund explained that that EA ultimately wanted to "deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come[.]" It felt like a coded message meaning the planned single-player experience Visceral was developing no longer suited the continuous multiplayer experiences offered by games like Destiny.

This "pivot" as Soderund called it feels like a larger trend in the gaming industry, but Heir says outright that "it's definitely a thing inside of EA."

Visceral's "Project Ragtag" Star Wars game.

In a rather candid interview, Heir explained that "[EA is] generally pushing for more open-world games. And the reason is you can monetise them better. The words in there that were used are 'have them come back again and again'... It's the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3-how do you get people to keep coming back for a thing instead of 'just ' playing for 60 to 100 hours?"

Heir attributes the trend largely to development budgets which have ballooned to over $100 million. A budget that doesn't work with linear single-player games. "But why can't we have both?" Heir asked, "why does it have to be one or the other? And the reason is that EA and those big publishers in general only care about the highest return on investment. They don't actually care about what the players want, they care about what the players will pay for."

While Heir can't share specific figures, he said that there is a lot of money "that's at play with microtransactions." Heir said that he's "seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards."

BioWare's upcoming game, "Anthem"

It's not just the Visceral Games news either says Heir. While talking about Anthem, the upcoming BioWare game, Heir said. "It's not a traditional-looking BioWare game, right? If that's what you're seeing from a place like BioWare, owned by EA-a place where I worked for seven years-if that's what you're seeing from Visceral now closing and going to this other Vancouver studio; what it means is that the linear single-player triple-A game at EA is dead for the time being."

You can listen to the full interview over at Waypoint, but the turbulent development of Mass Effect: Andromeda (which Heir was a part of) is well documented. "I was done," he said. "It was a real difficult project and time."

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for MojoBox #1 MojoBox 26 days ago
    Anthem's E3 reveal did absolutely nothing for me. It was a non-starter as far as what I want out of Bioware, but combine that with the dismal failure of Andromeda and this most recent EA news and I think Bioware is not a company that is able to produce a game that holds any interest for me.

    GaaS may be raking in the cash now, but I suspect it may well be a market with limited scope. As more and more titles crowd in to it we may well see something like the great MMO bust of the late Aughts. It will hit a natural upper limit to it's user base, a big winner or two will dominate with a few stragglers, and eventually it will all peter out as the predatory nature of the model starts making people feel like marks.

    I could be wrong though.
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  • Avatar for Vodka-Tonic #2 Vodka-Tonic 26 days ago
    It's clear now, that I should not have any hope for the in-development Dragon Age title. A shame.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #3 link6616 26 days ago
    @Vodka-Tonic Don't be worried. In 5 years we will see a return to Dragon Age, a massive open world experience filled with all the gacha you can shake a stick at. 1 in 500 chance to get that Morrigan. Want her S ranked? 20 hours grinding or 1 in 5000 chance.Edited 4 weeks ago by link6616
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  • Avatar for shurn #4 shurn 26 days ago
    This doesn't look good for triple A development. Looks like the melding of multiplayer and mobile markets as those are the money makers these days, they don't seem to be going away either. As long as they can make them addictive experiences this is where the industry will continue to grow. Only upside I can think of is that the cost will go down because these are more a service like Netflix then a tangible product. sequels will turn into seasons. I don't think this it's entirely the fault of development budgets increasing, the common game hobbiest life is getting busier and the time to devote to games is shrinking so they are more likely to stick to one game they can play day to day to get their fantasy fix.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #5 KaiserWarrior 26 days ago
    @Vodka-Tonic Well I would have thought that would be clear already after 2 and Inquisition.

    Not bad games, mind you, but very obviously games that cared far more about profit than being great games; from 2's heavily-recycled content to Inquisition's Generic Open World featureset that existed solely to keep people playing and 'engaged' until DLC could be sold.

    But, more to the article at hand, this is pretty much just confirmation of what we already knew: that AAA development stopped being about great games a very long time ago, and its modern iteration is concerned only with how much profit can be made. How much blood can they squeeze from that stone.

    They could lower the production values, still have excellent games, and still make a lot of money. But they wouldn't make all the money, and that can't be allowed. And we're never, ever going to convince them otherwise, because there are people that willfully dropped $15,000 on Mass Effect 3's mediocre-at-best horde mode. That's 250 copies sold at full standard retail price of $60. That's 750 copies sold at typical on-sale price of $20.


    AAA gaming is dead. There is no saving it. It's exploitative microtransaction garbage all the way down from here.
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  • Avatar for idcrising-gmail-com #6 idcrising-gmail-com 26 days ago
    Look beyond this crazy, to games like Destiny Original Sin 2 that are creating new franchises based on good old fashioned staples like great story telling, deep mission structure and incredible value added without lot boxes or micro transactions.
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  • Avatar for Thetick #7 Thetick 25 days ago
    I’m going to hold judgement until it’s released. Though ea is not really winning me over with their MT stuff. I can tolerate it in destiny and Forza 7, as I don’t really use it or feel it impacts my game, but ea is taking a much more aggressive approach.
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  • Avatar for Oliver11 #8 Oliver11 25 days ago
    with the suggestion of allowing individuals Download Pokemon Go by giving a number of attributes.
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  • Avatar for themblan #9 themblan 25 days ago
  • Avatar for matt-b #10 matt-b 25 days ago
    i bought and played mass effect 1-3 each multiple times. never once did i even touch the multiplayer component.

    i've put over 100 hours into mgsv. never once have i even touched the multiplayer component.

    i have never played a second of destiny or destiny 2 or battlefront. i have absolutely zero interest in these types of games.

    apparently i am an anomaly and not the customer ea wants (a 33 year old with a monthly budget for gaming related expenses). so be it.
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  • Avatar for favagostar #11 favagostar 25 days ago

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