Is EA to be blamed for BioWare’s poor image and the resignation of its co-founders?

The whole gaming industry was shocked a couple of hours ago, when BioWare announced that its co-founders were leaving the company. The reason behind Ray Muzyka’s resignation was as typical as ever. Ray stated that he wanted to move on to pursue an entirely different set of challenges. What really striked us, though, was  Greg Zeschuk excuse. Greg said that he reached an unexpected point in his life where he no longer has the passion that he once did for the company, for the games, and for the challenge of creation. Was BioWare’s acquisition something that made Greg lost his desire and passion for games and his own company?
This is a really tricky question and we can’t really give a simple answer to that. You see, as gamers we want quality games. Games that do not rely on DLCs, that are open to their communities, that are friendly to modders and that respect its legitimate owners. On the other hand, both EA and BioWare want to make money. Like it or not, those golden days when developers created games for gamers is a thing of the past. Greg and Ray may have earned a lot of money with BioWare’s acquisition, money that they could not have even dreamed of. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be accepting EA’s offer back in 2007, right?
But let’s take a look at EA’s and BioWare’s history, because things get really interesting in year 2007. Before BioWare’s acquisition, gamers were really respecting that company. And how could they not as that team had previously offered them a number of classic games. Baldur’s Gate I & II, MDK 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Neverwinter Nights were some of them. Hell, even Jade Empire was a great game.
BioWare was acquired by EA on October 11th. The interesting part here is that development for both Mass Effect and Dragon Age were in full swing. BioWare had invested in those projects. Mass Effect was in its late development phase (as it was released on November 20th), while Dragon Age was meant to be a PC exclusive title that was described as the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate. Let us say it again – BioWare has invested in those franchises and EA was willing to let them create the games they wanted, albeit with some changes. Mass Effect was ported to all platforms, and the same happened with Dragon Age (that was later renamed to Dragon Age: Origins).
And then, all hell broke loose as those two games were the only ones where BioWare had a say on its development cycle. Dragon Age’s expansion, Awakening, was forgotten in a matter of weeks. Mass Effect 2 was dumbed down and focused more on action than its predecessor’s RPG elements. And let’s not forget the huge number of DLCs that followed ME2’s release. Similarly, Dragon Age 2 was dumbed down – even more than Mass Effect – and was a total disgrace and a huge let down, with repeated dungeons, mediocre story and various bugs. In all honesty, Dragon Age 2 was one of the worst sequels we’ve ever seen and it does remind us of what happened to the Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell series. EA wanted to sell more copies and ‘forced’ BioWare to create a dumbed down sequel. Or at least that’s our guess.
And then came Mass Effect 3, a game that did not satisfy its fans but managed to sell like hotcakes. BioWare cut content from the actual game in order to release it as a DLC, something that was unacceptable in our opinion. Of course, EA stated that the development of its day-one DLC started after the team has finished creating the full game. However, EA has been milking its golden cows (Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Battlefield series) like crazy. A couple of months ago, we revealed that DICE and EA had plans for Battlefield 3’s DLC from the get-go and that DICE had lied about the reason behind the absence of the game’s mod tools. Moreover, the fact that From Ashes’ Prothean was originally part of the storyline is strong enough to blame both BioWare and EA about their decision to cut the content.
In a matter of a couple years, BioWare has managed to damage its public image and has lost the respect of its fans. So, going back to the original question, is EA to be blamed? Although we want to stay neutral on this matter, all things point to that direction. It’s also something we’ve seen with other developers that were acquired by EA, such as DICE. Even Crytek, an EA partner, is being limited by EA’s decisions. That’s why Crysis 2 went multi-platform and why the first game was ported to consoles. That, or Crytek was greedy and wanted to be the next Infinity Ward. Funny thing that Infinity’s founders left their own company when Activision acquired them, right?
Unfortunately, it seems that big publishers are to be blamed for such things and although they are in to make some money, they are actually hurting the gaming industry. Both Piranha Bytes (Gothic and Risen series creators) and Obsidian Entertainment were victims of their publishers pressures. And that’s precisely why Kickstarter campaigns are earning so much money and attention. Yes, a lot of developers do not want to Kickstart an IP, but we feel that this is the best way to fund their games as they won’t have to rely on their publishers decisions. And that’s a good thing for all of us as these developers won’t lose their interest in developing games.