Visceral are the latest studio eliminated by EA

Visceral are the latest studio eliminated by EA

Bullfrog. Westwood. Origin. Pandemic. Black Box Games. Danger Close. Mythic. Maxis (effectively). And now, Visceral. EA’s list of studio victims could put a decent hitman to shame. Nine companies eliminated, five of them within the last four years. At this point if your studio gets purchased by EA, you might as well start combing the classified ads.

The news of Visceral’s demise, dispassionately re-framed as a corporate “update on the Visceral Star Wars project,” emerged earlier today. With a development history that included the two-thirds lauded Dead Space series, the studio seemed like a reasonable fit for a narrative-driven Star Wars title headed by Amy Hennig when it was teased at E3 2016. Now, EA Vancouver and various other EA ‘partner’ teams will be in charge.

That game will still be development, but in what sounds like a radically different form. This Star Wars title, from what little had been revealed, was to be a linear, action-adventure game with (one hoped) a strong narrative. Indeed, it’s characterised that way by EA in their latest announcement.

However, after “testing the game concept with players” (okay), “listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play” (uh oh), and “closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace” (oh jesus, no), EA have decided to throw the original concept in the bin. Sorry, that should read “pivot the design” (into the bin).

That doesn’t necessarily mean this Star Wars game will now be called Star Wars Battle Royale: Loot Box Edition feat Open World Co-Op, but it does probably mean you can wave a sad goodbye to it being a tight, character-driven story. In EA’s own words, this game will now be “a broader experience” which … is hard to parse into English, but may mean “we want it to appeal to more people so it’ll sell more.” Because, as we know, any game with Star Wars on the box in big letters is automatically at risk of being too alienating for the mainstream.

But wait, EA spouted out more word-guff about this too. They also say the game will move towards “more variety and player agency”. That sounds great! If it means a Prey-like design that welcomes player creativity, or Obsidian levels of meaningful choices and consequences. It probably just means they’re giving the main character a skill tree though.

The announcement goes on to state that the game EA have looted from Visceral’s still warm corpse will “give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore”. Those words look an awful lot like ‘open world open world open world’. Could be good. Could be horrendous focus-tested mistake.

Electronic Arts EA Origin

How this Star Wars game (previous due in ‘fiscal 2019’, now due TBA) turns out isn’t really the point. The point is EA having a list of ‘mysteriously disappeared’ former partners that could make a drug cartel blush. If EA were in an actual Star Wars film, they would unambiguously be the villains; absorbing friendly factions into their organisation before unceremoniously disposing of them.

Criterion. Ghost Games. Motive Studios. BioWare. Respawn. Cross your fingers lads, because EA’s bloodlust never ends, and every single one of you are an unfavourable business report away from extinction.

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    • Harrison Rogers

      Another damned MP only game…shit…when the hell will AAA Devs like EA pull there heads out their big fat asses?

      • Paul Younger

        I have to admit, I am getting a little fed up with the focus on MP these days.

    • Wade Steel

      In the list of studios in the last paragraph, I’d like to point out that Respawn is an independent studio and is not owned by EA so EA cannot directly shut them down as they have to Visceral, Mythic, et al.

    • Hussain Ali

      Referring to the last paragraph, I think Criterion is essentially dead, no? With all the main team moved to Ghost Games.

      As for Visceral, a serious blow! Those guys tried something different with the original Dead Space (HUD less with main POIs moved to the equipment was a master class at its time, one of the best things that really blew me away). However, I think they wrote their own death sentence when they released a trash entry in Battlefield namely Hardline, which tbh, might have made for a decent cop-buddy drama if it was its own IP. Being attached to Battlefield was the worst thing they could do to it!

      As for the remaining studios, be vigilant, you guys! When EA wants to screw you over, they can just do that by putting your game in between two industry juggernauts of the same genre and then put the blame on the developers for a less than stellar “sales expectations” and down comes the axe. Poof! You are dust!

      P.S.: *cough* Respawn *cough* Titanfall 2 *cough*

    • Commissar7

      As sad as theses news are, you made me laugh with your writing. Good job sir.

    • ShammyDubz

      There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said, but man, I hope (now ex-)Visceral developers have backed up EVERYTHING. I want this stuff to leak out to Unseen64 and PtoPOnline someday, probably after EA Vancouver put out their game – there’s no reason to wish ill on the next group of developers who will likely let down EA’s shareholders, after all. They’ll get shuttered soon enough too :/

      EA’s a real piece of sh**. This is the path they set about on by following Hollywood’s lead, and killing off so many of their franchises to focus on the fewest “most profitable” series. They’re headed for extinction that way; you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Since the mid-2000’s, they’ve been attracting less gamers/consumers, and bleeding less people for more and more money. That’s not sustainable. They used to make a lot of games, with reasonable budgets, that appealed to a lot of people – and they were successful. They keep this up, they’re gonna crumble within the decade. And good riddance. EA’s been sh** since the HD era began.