EA have closed Visceral Games, the developers of the Dead Space trilogy, and essentially cancelled their years-in-development Star Wars game - which will be re-tooled by other EA developers. The reason being seems to be entirely because Visceral were making "a story-based, linear adventure game". All details below.
The EA Blog Post regarding this shocking news, from Patrick Söderlund, has some notable statements which we will highlight.
"Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. 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."
It is impossible to read that statement and ask certain questions. What players did they talk to? What fundamental shifts in the marketplace? Does that mean EA does not want linear story-based experiences? What do they mean by a broader experience?
The most obvious conclusion to be drawn is that EA do not wish to make a game like Uncharted, or Jedi Knight, despite hiring Uncharted's Amy Hennig to work on the game. It instead sounds like they want to make a game like Destiny or Anthem, with built-in multiplayer support that gamers spend hundreds of hours in rather than 12 hours and done. As for Hennig, according to an employee email EA says "we are in discussions with Amy about her next move."
We can't deny we sort of understand EA's position - 4 years in development with at least another 2 years to go only to make a game that'll be used-game-market fodder instantly, which players will love but won't want to spend any additional money on in Loot Crates or Microtransactions. On the other hand, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is one of our most anticipated games, and we're most looking forward to the linear story campaign in Star Wars Battlefront 2.
Additionally, was it really necessary to close a two-decades-old studio just because they specialized in games that weren't in line with EA's current Games As A Service mandate? Why not get Visceral to work on a different type of game? Monolith were specialists in the FPS genre for 12 years and now they're making the epic third-person Assassin's Creed-meets-Batman Middle-Earth games.
Regardless, EA has another notch on their shame belt and we're not getting any Star Wars games that aren't Battlefront titles until 2020 at the earliest. Anyone miss the days when EA actually made games for movie franchises they had the licenses to? Oh yeah, Visceral made most of them. Nevermind.