A new report from IGN contains the somewhat unsurprising news that, almost 12 years on from launch, EA is moving the ongoing support of Star Wars: The Old Republic from an in-house BioWare team to the third-party studio Broadsword Online Games. Broadsword may not be a household name, but one can think of it as the retirement home for golden age MMOs: It also runs Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot.
It seems like SW:TOR fits in the same boat, with enough players to keep it viable but not enough to justify any significant investment from hereon in. The report says things are at an advanced stage, with EA and Broadsword having signed a letter of intent and the deal due to be finalised later this month. Fans of the game may take some solace in knowing that Broadsword's head honcho is Rob Denton, Mythic Entertainment co-founder and formerly of BioWare, who worked on SW:TOR in its earliest stages.
Following the IGN report EA issued this statement:
"Almost 12 years after launch, Star Wars: The Old Republic remains a success and continues to grow its dedicated and passionate community. We’re so proud of the work the team has done, and the future of the game and the community continues to be very bright. We’re evaluating how we give the game and the team the best opportunity to grow and evolve, which includes conversations with Broadsword, a boutique studio that specializes in delivering online, community-driven experiences. Our goal is to do what is best for the game and its players."
So it seems like a done deal. One of the most eyebrow raising elements of this story is just how many people are still working on The Old Republic, with the core development team estimated at 70-80 people, of which roughly half are expected to transition to Broadsword along with the game. There's no news yet on whether the remainder face redundancy or will be shuffled elsewhere within BioWare and/or EA.
The elephant in the room is BioWare itself. If ever a studio needed to make a great game, BioWare right now is it. The last decade has been rocky in the extreme and the once-beloved RPG specialist now feels like a shadow of its former self, with the highly public failure of Anthem and Anthem 2 its most recent release. The word is that this change in the stewardship of SW:TOR is intended to allow BioWare to focus on the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, though that rationale feels a bit like lip service over the inevitable. This is an old MMO being put out to pasture, and that's that.
That's not to belittle SW:TOR, which is a great MMO and, in some opinions, one of the best games BioWare's ever made. It launched with a WoW-style subscription but quickly went free-to-play and has never looked back, with regular expansions and updates keeping players interested (and EA announcing in 2019 it had made a billion in lifetime revenue).
As for the wider Old Republic setting, a remake of BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic remains in development. Apparently. This was announced a long time ago before being indefinitely delayed, the kind of phrase Darth Vader might use after he's shanked a delivery boy, but there was the briefest sign of life in a recent investor briefing. As for BioWare and the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect… well, fingers crossed, but don't get your hopes up.