EA announced today that it would be closing the studio Visceral Games, a studio most recently known for Battlefield Hardline and maybe most notably for the Dead Space series. The studio was also working on an untitled game set in the Star Wars Universe. The news comes as a shock to some considering the events surrounding the studio and their Star Wars game. As you may recall, the writer/director of the Uncharted series, Amy Henig from Naughty Dog left in 2014 and joined Visceral to work on the Star Wars game. From the outside looking in, it seemed as if we were almost guaranteed a strong story based game set in the most popular story lore of all, the Star Wars Universe. That is of course until today. Today we were saddened to learn that EA doesn’t seem to want to build a story based game and appears they are now revamping this game to be “games as a service” or GAAS as its more commonly referred to.
EA has made its feelings known about making GAAS. They have even made it a mandate within the company, so hearing that this Star Wars title was building to be a story-based linear game should be no surprise that EA wanted nothing to do with that. For those of you that are unfamiliar with what GAAS means in relativity to the games you play, it’s basically a way for developers to put and profit largely off of micro transactions. Yes you heard that, micro transactions. EA has recently came under fire with their implementation of loot boxes in their upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II game, with some calling the mechanics a “pay to win scheme“. It’s with that in mind that hearing this news regarding Visceral, leads one to believe that they aren’t willing to even have a little balance between single player games and GAAS games. Sadly it seems they are doubling down on the idea that GAAS is the way of the future with gaming.
The Executive Vice President of EA, Patrick Söderlund issued a statement today regarding the closing of the studio and the direction they are headed with the untitled Star Wars game.
Our industry is evolving faster and more dramatically than ever before. The games we want to play and spend time with, the experiences we want to have in those games, and the way we play…all those things are continually changing. So is the way games are made. In this fast-moving space, we are always focused on creating experiences that our players want to play…and today, that means we’re making a significant change with one of our upcoming titles.
Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.
This move leads to a few other changes:
A development team from across EA Worldwide Studios will take over development of this game, led by a team from EA Vancouver that has already been working on the project. Our Visceral studio will be ramping down and closing, and we’re in the midst of shifting as many of the team as possible to other projects and teams at EA.
Lastly, while we had originally expected this game to launch late in our fiscal year 2019, we’re now looking at a new timeframe that we will announce in the future.
Bringing new Star Wars games to life for every passionate fan out there is what drives us as creators. It’s what has inspired us to deliver the massive new Star Wars Battlefront II experience launching in just a few weeks. It fuels our live service in Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes. Making games in the extraordinary Star Wars universe is truly a dream for so many of us at EA, and we have so many more experiences to come for players on every platform. We want to take the time to get each game right, to make it unique, to make it amazing.
We look forward to answering more of your questions, and sharing more on our plans and timeline for this new Star Wars experience, in the months to come.
As you can see through his statement, they are definitely committed to GAAS and their company mandate with it. There is no word of what is going to happen to the likes of Amy Hennig as it appears that the game will now be headed by Steve Anthony, who is the lead over at EA Vancouver. This is a story we will keep close eyes on and how the game shapes up. It does appear that we will be looking quite some time in the future for the release of this game as it was scheduled for some time in 2019 to now being marked as “timeframe to be announced in the future”.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the closure and the reasons given for it. I for one am not too thrilled with the way EA handled this and am going to be very cautious with the games from them in the future. I also worry about BioWare as they are also a studio within EA most notably known for their strong single player game series Mass Effect. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens there, but I am sure hoping for the best.