Should Reports Of Mass Effect On Hiatus Be Considered Alarming?

Despite all the hype surrounding it and the end result not being a completely terrible game, there is no denying that Mass Effect Andromeda failed to live up to the expectations. Not only was the game critically panned, it also failed to compete with the week 1 sales of both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. Given this scenario, it is expected that not only will the fans lose faith in the development team behind the game but also the publisher, despite EA claiming otherwise.

Due to the game’s lackluster reception, there have been rumors circulating since yesterday that EA might have decided to shelf the Mass Effect franchise and Mass Effect Andromeda might be the first and the last game with Bioware Montreal as lead developers. Considering EA’s history of shelving games after poor sales, a recent example being the Dead Space franchise, the rumors feel like they might be true after all.

So what does this mean for the Mass Effect franchise, which was once considered the pinnacle of Sci-Fi RPG and made Bioware one of the best RPG developers out there? Is the franchise going to suffer the same fate as Dead Space which seems to be dead for good now, after all, Dead Space 3 came out 4 years ago and there is still no word on another game from the franchise and developers Visceral Games have been moved on to other projects.

All the telltale signs are there that Mass Effect might suffer the same fate. According to recent reports, employees from Bioware Montreal have been moved to assist EA Motive with the upcoming Battlefront 2. Reports suggest that Mass Effect is now a low priority for EA and the development of a follow-up will not start off anytime soon so should Mass Effect fans start worrying?

In my opinion, not really. Yes, the “failure” of the game was disheartening for everyone; publisher, developer and the consumers but just because a studio’s staff has been moved to other projects doesn’t necessarily spell doom in this case.

Given how both Bioware Montreal and EA Motive are based in the same area and are part of EA, it is only natural that one would be asked to assist the other on a project as big as Battlefront 2. Such is the case with every big publisher and outsourcing development to other studios. Considering Bioware Montreal is the youngest of the three Bioware studios and was originally created as support for Bioware Edmonton, it makes sense they would be asked to help once again.

EA certainly took a big risk asking the studio to lead development on one of their top franchises and while it may not have paid off as expected, that still might not be enough to completely rule out the franchise’s future. It was Montreal’s first run at a big game and even if they don’t get the lead for the next game, there is still Bioware Austin in the running who could be asked to lead.

Austin clearly has experience with development of a massive sci-fi project in the form of their Star Wars The Old Republic MMORPG. Considering Bioware Edmonton, the main studio, will most probably be busy with the development of the Dylan project, my money would be on Bioware Austin to take charge with the next game.

The overall team size of all three Bioware studios should also be considered before panicking that the franchise has been shelved for good. All three Bioware studios combined the majority of their staff to make Mass Effect Andromeda, a development team of around 250 people. With the game having been released now, it doesn’t make sense to keep all that staff tied down to the same project when only a handful of personnel can work on post-launch updates and fixes. While it is possible that because of the game’s reception, we might not see any singleplayer DLC for Andromeda, this still doesn’t rule out a possible sequel.

Considering the number of projects Bioware has in works now, especially with their past of alternating between Mass Effect and Dragon Age releases, it would be a bad idea to stretch the staff out across so many projects which could also be why Mass Effect takes a backseat for now until the company’s slate clears up a bit.

Mass Effect Andromeda’s story structure itself suggests there would be a follow-up to the game given how much time was spent in trying to flesh out just one cluster of the Andromeda galaxy and so many loose threads were left by the end of the game. It makes sense the developers would want to revisit the stories again and continue to further build upon what Andromeda started, most probably with a fresh team and perspective while also retaining the main talent which made the franchise one of the best from the previous generation.