Many were surprised in mid-October when Electronic Arts announced that it would be closing Visceral Games after a few years of work on its planned Star Wars title, code-named Ragtag. Since the studio's closure, the project has been moved to EA Vancouver to "pivot the design" into something different. That statement read a lot like EA was switching from a single-player experience to a games-as-a-service model. An Ex-Bioware developer noted a similar situation was happening at that studio family.
According to recent comments by EA CEO Andrew Wilson, the closure wasn't about monetization or live service vs single-player. Wilson's statement came during an EA investors call, via a transcript by Seeking Alpha.
"You may have heard the conversation around single player versus multiplayer or single player versus live service and this wasn't about that conversation," said Wilson. "It wasn't about this was just a single-player game or it needed to be a live service, it was more about how do we get to a point where the overall gameplay experience was right for players. We're also very happy with some of the assets and content that was created as part of that game development and we'll be looking at how we can better utilize that in line with fan and player expectations in the future."
Of course, his next statement hints at games-as-a-service again, with EA trying to get players to return to and play the game for a long time. Wilson even uses the same "pivot" phrase as his previous statement.
"So on Visceral, again, anytime you close a studio, it's a very, very tough decision and something that we take very seriously and we spend a lot of time working through before we make such a decision. But it does happen from time to time as part of the creative process," said Wilson. "And during the development process of the game that they were working on, we've been testing the game content with players, listening to their feedback in terms of what and how they wanted to play and really tracking that closely with fundamental shifts in the marketplace and we are seeing an evolution in the marketplace. And it became clear to us that to deliver the experience that players wanted to come back and enjoy for a long time, that we needed to pivot the design."
Some of Wilson's comments line-up with ex-Visceral Games developers, who outlined a rough development process.
"Honestly, it was a mercy killing," said a former Visceral employee. "It had nothing to do with whether it was gonna be single player. I don't think it had anything to do with that. That game never could've been good and come out."
Regardless, the previous Star Wars project is gone, as is Visceral. Something new will come out of EA Vancouver.