The Downfall of Bioware
Amongst the hundreds of developers that exist in the gaming industry, the story of Bioware is one of the most interesting. Though not officially defunct, it’s very clear to see that Bioware has changed significantly from where it once started. To see how far they’ve fallen, it’s important to see how they got there to start.
Bioware was initially formed by a group of very passionate fans of classic western fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragons. This groups also had an appreciation for the use of science fiction in media. These passions were reflected through Bioware’s first two games being Shattered Steel, a mech simulation game taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, and Baldur’s Gate, a fantasy role-playing game that actively embraces the feeling of playing a D&D campaign through a video game. Though the games they made were critically praised, they failed to sell well to the specific niche of gamers they were appealing to. This pattern followed for the next few games with them releasing Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn and Neverwinter Nights, two more fantasy titles that failed to make a large impact on the industry.
This all changed with the release of their next game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Due to the immense popularity of Star Wars, Bioware was able to make a complex role-playing game that the general public could understand easily. The liberties they were allowed to take with the license also gave them ample opportunity to expand the known universe of Star Wars with characters and planets unique to the game. This finally put Bioware into the public consciousness of gamers.
Seeing this newfound success, Bioware was bought by the publisher Electronic Arts. This allowed for them to release games more consistently and have more press surrounding their games, which often leads to better sales. The next game Bioware released was Mass Effect. The game was applauded for its unique approach to world building, excellent writing and stellar storytelling. This was accompanied by memorable characters and captivating third-person shooter gameplay. Two years later, Bioware released Dragon Age: Origins. This game had improved heavily on the fantasy elements found in Bioware’s previous games and gave players more agency in the game’s story which made the game another success for the companies. These games and the sequels following them had cemented Bioware’s status as one of the best creators of role-playing games in the industry.
Unfortunately, some cracks started to show with the release of Mass Effect 3. Though an improvement on a technical level to the previous games, the story faltered quite a bit resulting in one of the most infamous endings in gaming history with much people writing the game off entirely due to how poorly the ending was handled. Though the developers had tried to remedy the ending issues after the fact, it was clear to see that Bioware had fallen from grace. Unfortunately, this stigma has lingered on to their next game, Dragon Age: Inquisition. Though it had sold well, the game’s story was weak and the world was too spread out with few interesting activities to do in between long travels. The game was ambitious but ultimately never reached any of the peaks of the previous entries in the series.
The release of Mass Effect Andromeda was the clearest sign that Bioware had degraded in quality. The game had released in an unfinished state upon release, resulting in dozens of glitches that made the game nearly unplayable. The game’s story and mission structure were also far below the standard set by other Bioware games. The game’s messy release had made people lose hope that Mass Effect would ever be great again and made people worry that Bioware would go out of business. Bioware’s most recent release, Anthem, was supposed to last chance that the developers had to prove their worth as a company and so far it seems that the game is a massive disappointment. Over the course of a few years, Bioware went from being the one of the most respected developers to a laughing stock amongst the industry.
The downfall of Bioware is especially devastating when you consider the company’s humble origins. A team of a few dozen developers that wanted to make video games that feel playing D&D had eventually grown to create worlds with lore and stories that rival the likes of Halo. After years of being at the top of their game, Bioware’s continual decline of quality has put their future as a developer in jeopardy.