Thursday, May 11, 2017

EA and SquareEnix's Business Decisions Are Freaking Gamers Out

Two big news stories have broken over the last 24 hours. So the "how to be a streamer" guide will need to take a temporary backseat. But the news isn't all doom and gloom. One of the stores had headline misappropriation that was blown out of proportion.

- BioWare's Montreal studio has been scaled down and the team rearranged to focus on other EA projects. The Montreal location has helped build some of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Some have been moved to EA Motive in the same province to work on Battlefront II, while others are starting work on project Dylan, a new property that has yet to be officially announced.

However, most headlines have said that BioWare was "downsizing" which means people were laid off. The assumption being that Andromeda didn't sell as well as expected. This is not the case. No one has been fired, and both EA and BioWare have re-emphasized their commitment to Mass Effect. In an earnings report earlier this week, EA's CEO said that he and investors are happy with the success of Andromeda and expect to see more from the series in the future.

What does it mean for Mass Effect? Nothing. This situation of shuffling around employees at larger gaming developers happens all the time. A game ends. Instead of piling on more resources to work on the next installment right away, teams will move around to help work on other projects that are underway. RockStar, Activision, and Ubisoft do this all the time. When you have multiple studios under your umbrella, it's easy to share the workload and move people to accommodate project needs. There will still be updates to Andromeda, and a patch was released as recently as yesterday, so expect that to be a continuing trend.

Be careful with reading those headlines and dig into the meat of the article instead. Sometimes they are false flags.

- However, this headline is true: SquareEnix and IO Interactive have ended their partnership. If IO Interactive doesn't sound familiar, you might not be aware that the company is the creator of Hitman, Kayne & Lynch, and Mini Ninjas. Square initially assumed ownership of IO in 2009 after buying Edios Interactive. But SE feels that, in order to more forward with future investments and marketing, they need to end the relationship and pursue other interests. Which is crazy given how popular the reboot of Hitman has been. Even I've enjoyed it, and I was completely against the episodic release concept (I still am, to be honest). SE has had record annual sales, and Hitman has been one of the key components to rounding out the developer's catalog of games.

So what's the real situation here? Why give up ownership for a property of games that has proven to sell? SE dropping IO Interactive will result in a $42 million loss for the financial year to end projects currently underway with the smaller developer.

We don't know the specifics, and both SE and IO haven't made any additional announcements on what this parting will mean. IO Interactive is still open for business. They're still pushing out updates to the game and adding more illusive targets. Hopefully we find out more soon, and IO is given a chance to live on with another company to continue the Hitman legacy.


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