BioWare is a huge studio, not necessarily in terms of size but in the quality of games they release, and the subsequent impact those games have on the industry. EA is a monolith publisher racking in billions of dollars every year, and as of January 1st, 2008 is the official parent company of BioWare. As a huge fan of BioWare to me this was a very scary prospect, EA in the past had some problems with how they handled acquisitions, with studios like Westwood, and Origin who under the EA brand lost their identity and the uniqueness that made their games so great. EA has endeavored to change that with a new CEO and a new city-state approach to how they handle their studio acquisitions. With studios like DICE, Maxis and Criterion making fantastic games under the EA brand, perhaps their new strategy is working.
In an effort to find out more about what life is like for BioWare after the acquisition, Gamasutra sat down with BioWare’s founder and CEO Ray Muzyka to ask; Have things really changed? And what does the future hold for this unique development studio? The short answer was that not much has changed — Muzyka assured everyone that BioWare will still make the games they always have, full of passion and narrative. EA’s CEO John Riccitiello has known the team at BioWare for many years as he is a former CEO of VGH, their former parent company.
“I think he knows we’re pretty passionate about what we do, and he knows that we fit into it in a certain way. We’re good at something, and we really strive to make good games. We care about our fans and our employees, and we’re not going to abandon those values,” Muzyka said.
As far as BioWare’s future is concerned, it looks to be a bright one; they’re about to release the PC version of the critically acclaimed Mass Effect, a Sonic RPG for the DS, along with several secret projects including one at BioWare’s Austin based studio that Muzyka says they’re “really proud of.” What that something is, no one outside of EA and BioWare know. In light of last October’s joint announcement by BioWare and LucasArts, speculation points to an MMO based on Star Wars’ KOTOR universe. While unwilling to share any details, Muzyka did say this of the game: “It’s going to feel like a BioWare game. It’s going to have the best of breed of MMO features, and some new innovations that when we reveal them, hopefully they’ll be impactful for people.”
Whether or not EA has indeed changed and whether or not BioWare will lose its identity under the EA umbrella, only time will tell. What we do know is that BioWare is one of the world’s greatest RPG developers and if they continue to make the deep and engaging games we have all come to know and love, who owns them will be of little concern.