Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bye Bye, Bioware

I think this story requires a brief moment of silence.



Bioware was founded in 1995 by doctors Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, Augustine Yip, for $100,000. Since then, whether they were your cup of tea or not, the company had consistently cemented it's reputation for providing deep, innovative, and game-changing RPGs.  They were one of the few companies that bore the rare stamp of integrity in the gaming industry.  I first was exposed to their work when I got my hands on the absolutely sublime Jade Empire in 2001.  Other noteworthy titles from them are the Baldur's Gate series, Star Wars: KoToR, and the Mass Effect series.  The second of the Mass Effects remains one of my favorite games of all time.

In late 2007, the company was bought out by Electronic Arts, and, surprise, their stock and credibility have been falling ever since.  It took a couple of years for the big gaming monolith to fully sink their teeth in, as games like Dragon Age: Origins, and Mass Effect 2, the latter of which released in 2010, do not bare the stink of empty suits.

In my estimation, it was the "corporate restructuring" that occurred around this time when EA merged them with Mythic Entertainment that was likely when the wheels began to fall off, and the corporate talons began tightening.

Dragon Age II was noticeably subpar to the original, The Old Republic proved polarizing, and, well, we all know what happened with Mass Effect 3.  Between the need to sequelize every property, suck as much profit as they could through day-one DLCs and online passes, internal pressures for a "broader" appeal, and most importantly, an extremely rigid release schedule which didn't provide enough time to finish the games (Mass Effect 2 took three years to complete, Mass Effect 3 took two.  I can only imagine what could have been if the final installment got that extra year), the company was simply unable to hold itself to its own standard of development integrity anymore.

Though the name still lives on indefinitely as a subsidiary of Electronic Arts,  I believe the departure of Musyka and Zeschuk (Yip retired in '97) is the final death knell for this once great company.  It's unclear why they left.  Some speculate that it was due to fan backlash, while Musyka has stated it was more the fault of corrupt journalists.  I think it was the ultimate realization that their vision could no longer be realized in their current circumstances.  Hopefully after some time off, they will rediscover their muse and return to the gaming private sector where they belong and disrupt the system they were once slaves to.  If anyone can do it, it's them.

The transformation is complete, and Bioware has now officially been hollowed out by corporate sycophants who care more about spreadsheets than they do about the medium they invest in.

R.I.P. Bioware, we hardly knew ye.


-VMA

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