I'm interested to hear your perspective on the Mass Effect franchise recently being put on hold. From the outside, and as a fan, it seems like they're shortsightedly judging the entire franchise's popularity on Andromeda's failure, when in reality a new Mass Effect game that learns from and corrects those mistakes would probably sell just fine. I've read this blog long enough to know I'm probably wrong about this; what's the real reason for that decision?
I believe it’s primarily an accounting thing. Here’s the issue - when Andromeda finished, the team was at its largest headcount in the development process. After launch, the devs would have been divided up into various projects - some would probably begin planning a sequel, some would work on DLC, some would be shifted to other projects in development. However, Andromeda didn’t reach its financial targets which means that the studio is in the red in terms of earnings and revenue. This doesn’t look good to the executives, so they have to take steps to correct the problem - usually by cutting costs. This means the development of the sequel will be delayed, and any planned DLC will probably get cancelled because there aren’t enough players to meet the DLC’s projections.
The problem here is that the cost cutting has to encompass both the missing targeted revenue from the game itself and the DLC projections as well. There’s probably no room in the budget for sequel development - at least until the fiscal year ends and all of the accounting issues get ironed out. This leaves the studio with a mighty need to cut costs to cover the shortfall the game has incurred. If you’ve read any of the financial stuff on this blog before, you know that “cutting costs” usually means one thing - jobs lost.
Due to the nature of it being only one studio of many in the red, a large publisher like EA can actually try to retain as many devs as possible by moving them (or as many as are willing to stay anyway) to other studios that have open jobs. This is why you see that Bioware Montreal was effectively absorbed/merged into EA Motive. Motive is working on Battlefront 2, which had its budget and schedule readjusted for the additional headcount they received. Should Battlefront 2 fall short of its projections, a similar fate would probably unfold at Motive as well.
You’re not wrong in thinking that a new Mass Effect game that corrects for the problems would probably sell just fine. The problem is getting to the point where the financial situation will allow for it. There’s a bunch of accounting and finances that need to be handled for the fiscal year, and that must be done properly or the shareholders will be unhappy. You never want shareholders to be unhappy, because that can have even larger effects, like harming the publisher’s ability to continue funding all of its projects. Basically, when a game doesn’t do well, it takes some time for the publisher to get everything cleaned up and ready to go again from a financial standpoint.
Got a burning question you want answered?