Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson expressed confidence in BioWare during an earnings call yesterday, and said that the decision to push back its new, as-yet-unannounced project into the next fiscal year was not a reflection of the relatively cool response to Mass Effect: Andromeda. Today, however, Kotaku reported that developer BioWare Montreal is being transitioned to a "support studio," with a number of its employees moving to the Jade Raymond-led EA Motive, while the Mass Effect series itself has been put "on hiatus."
To be clear, this does not mean layoffs, but rather a reallocation of resources. EA Motive is working on Star Wars Battlefront 2, obviously a major project, while BioWare Montreal's reduced responsibilities—Kotaku said it will "help support" the development of games at other EA studios, including the big mystery game at BioWare Edmonton, and also continue to patch and support Mass Effect: Andromeda—means that it simply doesn't need as many staffers as it did when it was making its own triple-A game.
"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," BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy said in a statement.
"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."
It's obviously not a happy development, but it's not nearly as catastrophic as it might appear at first glance, either. In a way, it's something of a return to the studio's roots: BioWare Montreal was originally founded in 2009 to help out with the development of Mass Effect 2, and Andromeda was its first solo act. Nor does it mark the end of Mass Effect, which despite the Andromeda stumble remains one of EA's top-tier series, and will obviously be back someday. If anything, it seems like a perfectly reasonable move: Employees go where they're needed, Star Wars moves front-and-center, Mass Effect is allowed to fade into memory for a while—sometimes that's a good thing—and nobody ends up out of work.