In saying the next Command & Conquer game is coming from “BioWare”, it seems EA is hoping a little of gamer’s good will towards the RPG powerhouse will rub off on the game. Instead, unless Generals 2 is amazing, it’s probably going to backfire.
How? When people think “BioWare”, they think of the Canadian developer behind games like Mass Effect and the Baldur’s Gate series. A studio that takes great pride in its story-telling and how it can draw a player into a fictional world that feels as rich and immersive as the real one.
Since BioWare was bought by EA a few years back, though, that brand strength has been thinned a little. Not by bad games, necessarily (though Dragon Age II isn’t helping), but by mere fact the name has been diluted, as EA turned one internal studio after another into an offshoot of the BioWare “brand”.
Take Command & Conquer: Generals 2, for example. EA says it’s a “BioWare” game, but really, it’s being developed by the same studio responsible for the last few Command & Conquer games. Those games didn’t do that well, especially the woeful Command & Conquer 4, so in changing the name on the door to read “BioWare” instead of “EA”, the publisher is obviously hoping to trade off a little of the goodwill associated with the former while distancing themselves from the reputation of the latter.
Would you believe there are now eight individual video game developers known as BioWare? Eight! There’s the original team in Alberta, Canada. There’s BioWare Victory. There’s BioWare Austin, where Old Republic is in development. There’s BioWare Mythic, BioWare Ireland and BioWare San Francisco. There’s BioWare Montreal. There’s even BioWare Sacramento, which is…a social game developer.
EA probably hopes this’ll make BioWare’s brand stronger, or at least sell some more games to people who like hearing “FROM BIOWARE” at the start of a trailer, and don’t like hearing “FROM EA”.
What’ll probably happen, though, is it’ll all end in tears. When I think BioWare, I think characters, choices and lots of dialogue. I do not think real-time strategy. The more studios EA calls BioWare, and the more games it releases under that umbrella that aren’t associated with what that developer used to be known for, the more pointless the exercise becomes, as it trades away the very thing it was hoping to trade on in the first place.