Sources: BioWare Montreal Downsized, Mass Effect Put On Ice For Now

In the wake of BioWare's polarising Mass Effect: Andromeda, fans have wondered where the lauded sci-fi series will go next. The answer, according to people familiar with the studio, is nowhere — at least for the time being. BioWare has put Mass Effect on hiatus and turned Andromeda's developer, BioWare Montreal, into a support studio, according to four sources close to the company.

That doesn't mean there will never be another Mass Effect game, of course. It's unlikely that BioWare will kill the popular sci-fi franchise. But BioWare is letting Mass Effect sit for a while rather than putting staff on Andromeda's follow-up right away, those sources said.

Last month, a number of BioWare Montreal employees were transferred to the studio EA Motive, also based in Montreal, to work on Star Wars Battlefront 2. Those remaining at BioWare Montreal will help support BioWare's other games including the new intellectual property, code-named Dylan, which we expect the company to announce at E3. BioWare Montreal will also continue to patch and support Andromeda's multiplayer.

BioWare's main studio in Edmonton is heading up Dylan, while BioWare's other studio, in Austin, is also helping out with that game.

When reached for comment, publisher Electronic Arts sent over the following statement, attributed to BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy:

Our teams at BioWare and across EA put in tremendous effort bringing Mass Effect Andromeda to players around the world. Even as BioWare continues to focus on the Mass Effect Andromeda community and live service, we are constantly looking at how we're prepared for the next experiences we will create.

The teams in EA Worldwide Studios are packed with talent, and more than ever, we are driving collaboration between studios on key projects.

With our BioWare and Motive teams sharing studio space in Montreal, we have BioWare team members joining Motive projects that are underway. We're also ramping up teams on other BioWare projects in development.

There will be much more to come from BioWare in the years ahead.

Mass Effect: Andromeda, released in March, was originally envisioned as a reboot for the franchise, but went through a brutal development process for several reasons including technological challenges and a major scope change late in development, people familiar with the game said.

Reception to Andromeda was lukewarm, and people scoffed at its writing and animation. (Our review called it flawed and uneven.)

Andromeda was also the first game headed up by BioWare Montreal, which was founded in 2009 to help make downloadable content for Mass Effect 2 and 3. Although BioWare's other two studios, Austin and Edmonton, also contributed to Andromeda, the game's director, franchise producer and leads were all based in Montreal. BioWare Edmonton had developed the first three Mass Effect games.

Now, sources say, BioWare Montreal is significantly smaller than it was just a few months ago. Those who didn't go to Motive will help out with BioWare's other projects rather than incubating and developing their own.

Earlier this week on an earnings call, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson told investors that the publisher is "very happy with how BioWare is doing, how BioWare is treating Mass Effect. And our expectations for Mass Effect are still strong for the future and the franchise overall." Wilson also put a great deal of emphasis on "live service" games, of which BioWare's new IP is one. That's the studio's main focus for the time being.


Comments

    well let's hope it's reassignment and not mass layoff. hard to innovate if you're not willing to risk.

    granted the lack of details on any update to ME:A is already speaking volumes for what's left of the community

      I think the days of risk-taking are over. Expect to see the same tone over and over again until some kind of article comes along that informs people this is happening and causes them to pretend they knew it all along. The anger about the bugs is understandable but the change in direction didn't deserve the hate. It just seems weird that people almost treat games like an order at a restaurant. They complain when they didn't get what they wanted in a medium where you don't really get to choose what you wanted until it's already out. I can't understand the "this isn't what i wanted" complaints. Is it just me who doesn't assume i didn't get what i wanted until i actually play it and keep my mind open? The amount of baseless generalisations surrounding this game makes me wonder who actually played it. I'm not sure what people expect but this game seemed to have its own review criteria that wasn't held to anything else. A lot of gameplay omissions are merely concessions that allowed for something else... only people don't see the "something else", only what they lost in the first place. Seems really short sighted how much judgement i've seen on this game based on a complete misunderstanding or assumptions about game conventions.

      Just assumptions about agency, pacing, and narrative are just bizarre to anyone with a basic education in how it works. It seemed they were already on the fence about risk after ME3 but now because they didn't magically come up with something different but identical that hit every random piece of criteria the average person demanded, they've somehow "lost faith" in their customers. I'm not sure how people remember history but not every game in every series you remember was perfect and just because you don't like characters, story etc. doesn't mean no talent or value exists in something whatsoever. The amount of certainty and how quickly people reach it and defend it with subpar education is worrying to me in that our games are about to align with the reboot culture of cinema, creating even more, loud, generic games with "strong villains" that align with expectations but don't present any surprises or challenge expectations. They've failed twice now in the undereducated eyes of fans (there's a difference between failing and YOU not liking something), people have learned that their anger and generalisations carry weight, if you act like Trump, soon enough your assumptions become reality for everyone.

        I've signed up just to say that I agree 100% with your comment.

        > The amount of baseless generalisations surrounding this game makes me wonder who actually played it.

        The generalizations were in place, and the various bandwagons already in motion before the game was released.

        I wonder what this entails about possible DLC -- is there anyone left to work on any story expansions now? Have the teams already been dissolved? The game ended with loads of hints towards things such as the Quarian Ark, etc.; it'll be a shame if those are already canned.

    Oof. Should have spent more time running calibrations before release.

    If ME:A had been released a couple of years ago, I don't think it would have been quite so critically panned. It's not a bad game, really.

    However, coming off the back of some really strong titles (eg, Horizon Zero Dawn), it's just not up to the current standard.

      This.

      To me, The Witcher 3 has forever made the idea of forgettable padding side quests unacceptable in a AAA game. And as much as liked Andromeda, it had some seriously boring filler in there.

        Agreed. The Witcher 3 has set the standard for how to do open world. ME:A would have been more enjoyable either with less open world or better stuff to do in the world. Go here, fetch this, go back to there - boring.

    Sounds about right, maybe its time to shelf Bioware all together. A lot of the talent is clearly gone. It would be sad to see it happen, but the quality of the games they have released has slipped pretty hard over the last three titles.

      Pretty much after they got bought out by EA the quality started dropping.

      I would say there is nothing left of Bioware then its name.

      It's a bit hard to say. The trouble is, Bioware Montreal was originally just a support studio for Bioware Edmonton, which is the original Bioware studio, and separate again from Bioware Austin, the guys behind SWTOR. When you buy a Bioware game, unless you research which Bioware team actually made it, you don't know how high a quality game to expect. The reason the writing for ME:A was lower quality than usual for the ME series is it's previously always been the Edmonton team working on the ME series. This time, they had very little to do with the game, and it showed.

      That said, that ending to 3...

    I wonder what this means for any single player DLC - not happening?

    This is what happens when you hire based on diversity instead of talent.

      Pretty much.

        How quaint.

        Explain the first ME then.

          Not saying it's due to some sort of diversity vs. talent conspiracy like Carl is, but the first Mass Effect was a game from a different time and a industry with lower expectations.

          The biggest problem with Mass Effect: Andromeda isn't that it radically worse than the original trilogy, it's that it was disappointingly similar.

          Mass Effect has always had problems, but the industry has developed and many games in many genres have proven that those problems are solvable since then. Before, maybe reviewers and fans assumed that the limitations of the franchise were the limitations of the medium. Now we all know that isn't the case.

      And you have documented proof to back up this claim?

      Yeah, nah. "Diversity hires" have bugger all to do with the decline of BioWare - it's the EA-effect of having to appeal to a wider and wider audience and changing the focus of the game from the story, the characters and the writing to EA's "make us the game that will make us the most money."

      The old guard of the talented folks who worked BioWare have been slowly leaving - there's been a shift towards it being a business first rather than a studio developing narrative driven games first.

      That's it. Plain and simple.

        I think you've hit the nail on the head here. It's an issue with EA, right down to the bones of it. Even Frostbite, as an engine, is just not suitable for this sort of game, but because it's 'the' EA engine, Bioware have to use it. It's obviously caused them a lot of problems.

    So the quarian ark is lost forever? Alas.

    Dejectedly: There were elcor on that ark. I was looking forward to their Shakespearian adaptions ...

    So disappointed! Was really looking forward to a sequel to Andromeda. Gimme some story DLC at least.

    The game was super fun and the premise had real potential. Admittedly it got a little bit fetch-questy at times, and 3 desert environments was probably a misjudgement, and the animation kinda ruined the storytelling, BUT combat was awesome and I loved hangingout with those characters. Bioware could create something truly special by building on Andromeda.

    The saddest of sad-faces. :C

    I loved ME:A, finished three times, got the platinum. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

    Bittersweet news indeed.
    I love the universe, but I'd rather wait 5+ years for a fresh start than have it run through the dirt and bastardised.

    I think the next ME should have a much smaller scope. Make it a tight, narrative focussed game without waffle or padding. Maintain the thrill of space exploration, and the strength of the relationships and romances but bundle it in a leaner package. Did I really need to bother scanning 10 plant samples? Did I really need to travel all the way across the galaxy just to set up a gizmo for someone's radio broadcast? Of course not!

      Plus it completely screws up the pacing - spent 20 hours establishing outposts before I did another story mission and was like, "what's happening with these dudes again?"

    I'd happily wait a few extra years if it meant MEA could get a worthy sequel. I feel like starting entirely fresh isn't a good answer, but maybe the next game could be more "few years after we've established stuff, *this* happens" which wouldn't be too confusing for new players to step into.

    At first, I was pretty sad about the likelihood of there being no extra DLC, but then I remembered that it'd actually be cool of studios to not treat dlc as "story we forgot to include or should've included originally" so maybe it'll actually work out to our benefits, if another MEA is on the way years in the future.

    MEA had its problems, no doubt about it, but I loved that game and would hate for it to not have a chance to build on what it's got. I'd definitely buy a sequel.

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