EA is closing Visceral Games, changes direction of studio's Star Wars game

Update: An internal email obtained by Kotaku indicates that Amy Hennig is off the project. 

"A development team from across Worldwide Studios will take over development of Ragtag, led by the EA Vancouver team that has already been working on the project," the email says. "Steve Anthony will lead this team, and we will use much of the work that has been done to date by Visceral—the assets of Ragtag that have already been built will be the foundation of this new game."

Original story: 

Visceral Games, the studio behind Dead Space and Battlefield Hardline and which was most recently working on a still-unannounced Star Wars game, has been closed down. Electronic Arts vice president Patrick Soderlund confirmed the closure in a statement, in which he also said that the design direction of Visceral's Star Wars project will undergo a "significant change." 

"Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe," Soderlund writes. "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." 

You have to wonder what Soderlund means by "greater depth and breadth." Will this Star Wars game become an open-world game, or a longer lifespan of paid content and updates? It's interesting that Soderlund mentions Frostbite specifically—this is also the engine that BioWare's Destiny-like sci-fi cooperative game Anthem will run on. You'd have to think EA would avoid publishing two similar sci-fi games in a short period.

We also learn in this announcement that taking over for Visceral will be a team "from across EA Worldwide Studios," while Visceral "will be ramping down and closing." The change also means a delay, from late in EA's 2019 fiscal year to "a new timeframe that we will announce in the future." 

Visceral's Star Wars project was under the care of Amy Hennig, the former creative director of Naughty Dog's Uncharted games, who took on the same role for this game in 2014. Soderlund didn't say what role she'll play, if any, in the future of the project, but given its move away from a "story-based, linear adventure," it's a possibility that she won't be involved further. As for what's in, that remains to be seen—but a game that people "will want to come back to" for a long time to come suggests that whatever it is, it won't be the 'Star Wars Uncharted' we were expecting. 

I've reached out to EA for more information and will update if and when I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.