Q&A: BioWare on the EA buyout

Drs. Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk discuss their studios' big deal--and reveal Dragon Age and top-secret MMORPG are already playable.

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Last week, Bungie Studios stunned the game industry by announcing that it was separating from cash-flush corporate parent Microsoft. This week, another unexpected blow floored industry watchers when Electronic Arts announced it was buying BioWare/Pandemic, the "superstudio" formed by the union of the eponymous Canadian RPG maker and the Californian action studio.

Other than the staggering sums involved--$860 million dollars, including $620 million in cash--the deal drew interest because of the players involved. Less than two years after thumbing its nose at the traditional publisher business model by eliciting nearly $300 million in venture capital, BioWare/Pandemic was being bought. The purchaser in question is the world's biggest third-party publisher, and has been rightly or wrongly perceived as preferring to hit corporate deadlines over supporting creative vision.

Recently, EA has taken great pains to dismantle its negative image by striking deals with top independent developers such as Crytek and Valve Software. This trend accelerated in February, when ex-EA CEO John Riccitiello retook his old position after a several-year hiatus. Ironically, during that time, he served on the board of the venture capital fund Elevation Partners, and oversaw the BioWare/Pandemic merger in November 2005.

Riccitiello went on to become BioWare/Pandemic's CEO and worked closely with the cofounders and co-CEOs of BioWare, Drs. Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeshcuk. Shortly after the EA deal was announced today, GameSpot spoke with the two developers about its implications for their company, which has been an fixture of independent development since the mid-1990s. Now that it's joined other former mavericks such as Criterion and Digital Illusions CE under the EA Games umbrella, what does the future hold?

GameSpot: Going from the worlds' biggest independent developer to part of the world's biggest publisher? People are kind of taken aback. What's your reaction to that?

Ray Myzuka: Well, I'm really excited about the opportunity to integrate the great development teams we have here, the marketing teams we have here. As you said, EA is the largest, and I think, the best publisher in the world, and I think we can [add] some value to that team, and that organization as a partnership.

GS: Right, but you guys were always an icon of independent development, and were even more so after the deal with Pandemic...

Greg Zeschuk: Well, to be blunt, I don't really see ourselves as not being independent anymore. We've got a goal of making great BioWare games, and we believe in [EA CEO] John [Riccitiello]'s vision--we can't overemphasize that. We've worked with John for years, and we're looking forward to keep doing what we're doing and doing it well.

GS: You said you still think of yourself as being independent, even though you're now owned by EA. So what exactly, besides the fact you're obviously wealthier, has changed under the deal? Will day-to-day operations at BioWare change at all?

RM: Well, we can achieve more. We've got more opportunities, more resources for the great development and marketing teams here to take advantage of. We're also a lot more direct to the consumer now, since we're part of the publisher. It's going to allow us to fulfill our mission statement of making the best story-driven games in the world, even better than before. Nothing's going to change about that, since we're really passionate about that, and that's in line with what we've heard from John in the values and mission he's expressed.

GS: So is the name going to still be BioWare or is going to become "EA BioWare"?

GZ: Well we're still BioWare...

RM: BioWare is a name that's associated with some really positive things. The fans like the brand, it's a consumer-facing brand, so we're not going anywhere with it.

GS: Well, I was speaking in purely nomenclature terms, like how Mythic became "EA Mythic"?

RM: That will be a collaborative discussion as we work with the folks at EA Games. We're proud to be working with Frank and proud to be working with John. [EA Games president] Frank [Gibeau] is a big gamer, and a great advocate for BioWare.

GS: People are now wondering what is happening with some of your properties, specifically Mass Effect, which is due out next month. That's a wholly owned BioWare property, correct?

GZ: Yes, it is, and it's almost done. Ray and I have both played it! There's other stuff too, there's Dragon Age, there's the Sonic RPG we're making with Sega, there's what we're doing down in Austin, and some other secret stuff as well.

GS: Right, but Mass Effect was billed as being this big booster for Microsoft's publishing efforts and as one of the biggest Xbox 360 exclusives. Will it remain a 360 exclusive?

RM: Microsoft is a great partner, a great publishing partner, and we're really excited to work with them. And we love the 360. One of the things we've talked about is getting multiple iterations of this franchises out during its lifetime, since it's such a great system to work with. And we see Microsoft as a long-term partner on Mass Effect.

GS: Will Microsoft be publishing future iterations of Mass Effect or will EA be publishing it itself?

GZ: We can't predict the future. We'll see what happens. The key thing is we're making a trilogy of Mass Effect games, and we've got a great story arc.

RM: I think people should check it out and just focus on the first game. The team's efforts are going to shine through, since it's an amazing, amazing experience.

GS: Now one of the main reasons EA gave for acquiring BioWare/Pandemic was the upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game you're developing in Austin. After listening to John's comments in the conference call, one walks away with the impression that said MMORPG is a wholly owned IP of BioWare--and therefore EA. Is that correct?

RM: We haven't revealed any details about the game. It's super secret right now. It's got all the characters and story arc that BioWare is known for, and I wish I could say more. It's the best of breed of MMO, with the magic BioWare's associated with, and our goal is to make sure people can't stop playing it.

GS: Right, but judging by John's enthusiasm, it sounds pretty safe to say the MMO is an all-original IP. Would that be fair to say?

RM: [Long pause] We haven't revealed any details about the game. It's super secret right now. It's--

GS: OK, OK, I get it.

GZ: I can say one thing: It looks awesome! [Laughs.] We can say a second thing, too: It's really fun to play. We're already playing it. We were playing it just last week.

GS: Now, you just mentioned Dragon Age. Since Dragon Age wasn't mentioned in the acquisition announcement and so little has been heard about it, there's been some speculation that it was canceled.

RM: Oh, no. We were just playing that last week as well. It's one of the more enjoyable things I've done in the past few weeks, by far. I could not stop playing it. I meant to play it just for a little bit just to check it out, but I ended up playing it all weekend. I wish we could say more about it, as the team has been putting in some late hours on the project, and they've come up with some amazing stuff. We're gonna be revealing some more about Dragon Age very soon, I think, and I think you'll be excited to hear about it.

GS: EA announced that there were 10 BioWare/Pandemic franchises, six of which will be series that EA will wholly own. Does that number include existing franchises? I.e. would Mass Effect be counted among that number?

RM: It's a mix of both.

GZ: Tor, are you trying to figure out how many secret games we have? [Laughs.]

RM: No, that includes some absolutely unannounced stuff, some super secret stuff we're really proud of. I wish we could talk about it more.

GS: Now, I also notice John mentioned Jade Empire as a property EA was excited about. Does that mean we can expect some new Jade Empire games down the line?

RM: That's an interesting question. [Long pause] We certainly haven't announced anything on that front.

Discussion

405 comments
RitterXplode
RitterXplode

Jade Empire FTW! And Marzano got it right.

Marzano
Marzano

I've never liked EA. Everything they touch turns to poop.

Anthrax88
Anthrax88

I hope EA doesn't ruin bioware... Bioware make great games because they take their time. EA push creators to earn fast money. I WANT GOOD GAME NOT HALF-DONE GAMES. I'll never again buy a EA-Game if they ruin Bioware.

shaheermian
shaheermian

*sigh* and yet another one engulfed!

zobbi4110
zobbi4110

Thats it bioware are finished

Hungry_bunny
Hungry_bunny

I think it's sad, I hope that ea doesn't affect Bioware too much... no need to fix something that isn't broken...

ps3thabest
ps3thabest

good bye good company u sold out 2 ea

simo98088
simo98088

ANyone who thinks Bioware will get all the time and comfort they want with making a game are kidding themselves!! Even my stoopid job in my country town has very tight rules and deadlines... EA will make Bioware submit games on time at the expence of anything that isnt finsihed... Of course Mass Effect will go to PS3.... Its obvious by there answring of questions that it will... There will be a honeymoon period in which Bioware will think this is fantastic and but once that honeymoon period ends, there will be issues. And with EA buying bioware for $860 mill, there not going to leave them alone and let them cruise at there forma independant self... The biggest and most money hungry business in the gaming world will demand Bioware do what they have to do in as quick a time possible to make back and then triple that $860 mil investment... They dont need to make 8.5-9.5 rating games to do that now, any game with a Bioware symbol on the front will be bought by the masses. Except for (dragon age, MMO) etc. and any current games close to completion are complete...expect ratings of 7-7.5 for them for Bioware games rather then the 8.5-9.5 you would expect.

simo98088
simo98088

ANyone who thinks Bioware will get all the time and comfort they want with making a game are kidding themselves!! Even my stoopid job in my country town has very tight rules and deadlines... EA will make Bioware submit games on time at the expence of anything that isnt finsihed... Of course Mass Effect will go to PS3.... Its obvious by there answring of questions that it will... There will be a honeymoon period in which Bioware will think this is fantastic and but once that honeymoon period ends, there will be issues. And with EA buying bioware for $860 mill, there not going to leave them alone and let them cruise at there forma independant self... The biggest and most money hungry business in the gaming world will demand Bioware do what they have to do in as quick a time possible to make back and then triple that $860 mil investment... They dont need to make 8.5-9.5 rating games to do that now, any game with a Bioware symbol on the front will be bought by the masses. Except for (dragon age, MMO) etc. and any current games close to completion are complete...expect ratings of 7-7.5 for them for Bioware games rather then the 8.5-9.5 you would expect.

coneman1
coneman1

I agree with Vampire_Turtle on this one, but I do hope the second and third parts of the trilogy of Mass Effect really kicks ass l don't want to see EA messing up a great thing....

Godofnerdyness
Godofnerdyness

S-S-S-..... SONIC RPG!!!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!??!?! OH MY GAWD

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

all i want to know is if bioware is going to produce for other systems other than ms...

uncannyone53543
uncannyone53543

Okay, first of all, BioWare/Pandemic Studios retains all rights to the six IPs they completely own. This means if they wanted to, they could release Mass Effect on other platforms than the 360. They did the same with Jade Empire, The PC version was published by 2K games. The mergrer does mean the loss of the Forgotten Realms series, due to Atari owning the rights to all Dungeons & Dragons interactive titles.

WizengamotX
WizengamotX

This probably is one of the best interviews I've read in a while from Gamespot. They revealed alot of stuff. Not to bash you or anything, but philby00, you aren't doing anything by being sarcastic about what you percieve as a bad interview. I've been following Bioware's products since the studio started, and just because you are a casual gamer doesn't mean they have to say some features in a game to have a good interview.

philby00
philby00

wow what a really useful interview! did they actually answer a question??

batosaims
batosaims

pc is a very strong possibility though beside the ps3 wouldnt be able to handle this game it was built mainly for the 360

batosaims
batosaims

no sm0ke311 as long as ms has the publishing rights mass effect will never be on a sony system

sm0ke311
sm0ke311

looks like mass effect is coming to ps3 and the pc.

Chrlywtrfall
Chrlywtrfall

This means Bioware can make a Wing Commander MMORPG...if you are in your early 20s...you just came...sorry about that.

batosaims
batosaims

ea=everything acquired at least mass effect will remain a 360 exclusive and lucas art can still go to obsidian for starwars kotor 3

Vampire_Turtle
Vampire_Turtle

BioWare, do not let those bastards at EA control you! Make more great unuique RPGs instead of rehashing series. Like EA does, Madden NFL, Fifa etc.

Devvy01
Devvy01

Please stop these big company buy outs, the only thing going to be left soon is MS,EA & McDonalds

batosaims
batosaims

this game will never be on the ps3 because ms owns the publishing rights meaning any version of this game will have its license owned by ms sorry but thats just another of many reasons why the ps3 sucks and the 360 is far superior

Manyac
Manyac

Now even bioware is a sell out

SrTVBR
SrTVBR

I want kotor 3 either, and mass effect for PC

Josepiphus
Josepiphus

how is ea's relationship with lucas arts? I WANT KOTOR 3!!!!

Xionethic
Xionethic

lol, getting it publish doesn't necessarily mean you own it, think about it, books can be re-published by anyone, its like a distribution stage, they can probably get it re-published lol

Ra-Devil
Ra-Devil

Isn't Mass Effect a Microsoft Gaming Studios game? Meaning unless M$ says so, it ain't going anywhere? Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm really not too sure. I mean, it says "Publisher: Microsoft Gaming Studios". I'm not sure how that works, so yeah.

Saije
Saije

Never trust a lawyer.... And never trust a businessman.

Megawizard
Megawizard

"man I would love to play Mass Effect ,but I have a PS3,not a 360 lol" Don't worry. EA will bastardize it before long.

NandoSupes
NandoSupes

man I would love to play Mass Effect ,but I have a PS3,not a 360 lol

bertm1975
bertm1975

Come on BioWare...EA does own the rights (Least half of it) of the Ultima series. Please, let's see a new Ultima game....or even Wing Commander. Or...Crusader: No Remorse?

Hairball
Hairball

Look for Mass Effect for PS3 now. God I hate EA.

jay_rock_
jay_rock_

wow I really hate ea because thet took my 2k football from me

ObiKKa
ObiKKa

K_M82 "One last thing. Remember Bungie? Microsoft did bought Bungie. That doesn't stop Bungie from becoming Independent again." MS did NOT buy Bungie ever before, instead they just made a deal to make the games together as partners. MS has a few external studios that they own, but they only partner with other developers, including Bungie & Bizarre Creations, which were then. But now Bungie is doing their own thing, & will be looking to other publisher(s) for their future works, & Bizarre have since been acquired by Activision.

Nicolas00-0g
Nicolas00-0g

@Darkseid You're right. I don't remember a exclusive game made by EA. And the PS3 & PC players maybe will be happy if Mass Effect become also to PS3 & PC. And also EA just thinks in money, but let's wait for Mass Effect release it will also come to PS3 and PC.

roukan
roukan

Awesome!! Now God-willing with EA's rights over the Ultima franchise and Bioware's skill at making RPG's they can revive the greatest RPG franchise of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Darkseid
Darkseid

It looks as though these guys have some kind of agreement existing that will ensure that they can take all the time they need to create the storyies we're used to from Bioware. I just hope that their trust in John isn't misplaced, because they've trusting him an awful lot. It was very interesting to see them dodge the exclusive questions about Mass Effect. Yes, they intend on having Microsoft as a long time partner with the game, but they didn't say an exclusive partner. EA doesn't like exclusives. Thats a fact. They like money, and (no matter how lucritive the exclisive deal) you can always make more money with a good game on multiple platforms. I am disturbed that they couldn't be certain that they would keep Bioware a single name without EA attached. But other than that, they have calmed some of my concerns.

K_M82
K_M82

I have said this once, and I will say it again : Well this could be good for Bioware. EA left Maxis alone, and let them have as much time they need to develop a game (Spore has been in development for more than 2 years). If EA treat Bioware like they treat Maxis, than I have no problem at all with EA buying Bioware. Why does everybody only see the bad side of this deal? Besides EA still make good game. Remember C&C 3? NFS? Burout? Also remember that unlike Westwood, Bioware did not have a strong IP. Most of their past game used licensed IP (AD&D, Star Wars). Some of the IP they own (that I can remember) are Jade Empire, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect. None of them are as strong as Westwood's C&C. So I think EA buy Bioware for because of the Bioware good developing team. EA would not push Bioware around. One last thing. Remember Bungie? Microsoft did bought Bungie. That doesn't stop Bungie from becoming Independent again.

K_M82
K_M82

I have said this once, and I would say it again : Well this could be good for Bioware. EA left Maxis alone, and let them have as much time they need to develop a game (Spore has been in development for more than 2 years). If EA treat Bioware like they treat Maxis, than I have no problem at all with EA buying Bioware. Why does everybody only see the bad side of this deal? Besides EA still make good game. Remember C&C 3? NFS? Burout? Also remember that unlike Westwood, Bioware did not have a strong IP. Most of their past game used licensed IP (AD&D, Star Wars). Some of the IP they own (that I can remember) are Jade Empire, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect. None of them are as strong as Westwood's C&C (IMHO). Mass Effect & Dragon Age still need to prove them self (even though Mass Effect really look promising). So I think EA buy Bioware for because of the Bioware good developing team. EAwould not push Bioware around. One last thing. Remember Bungie? Microsoft did bought Bungie. It was a part of Microsoft games studios. That doesn't stop Bungie from becoming Independent again. See people? Good things can still come out of this deal.

commorancy
commorancy

Greg Zeschuk says, "we believe in [EA CEO] John [Riccitiello]'s vision". I say, good luck with that. Ultimately, this can only end badly for BioWare. Acquisitions always put the purchased company at a bad disadvantage. So, eventually EA will gut your company, it's only a matter of time. Worse, It will likely start by EA making unnecessary changes to the BioWare game engines which will then force your best programmers to leave. Thus, depriving EA of that talent. In a couple of years, ultimately only the shell of what was BioWare will be left. So, enjoy this moment now. In a few years people will be asking, "BioWare? What's that?" Of course, out of the ashes... meaning, we will hopefully see a new game development company start up as a result of this one lost. Of course, I could be wrong.. but I've been on the acquired end of too many companies to know exactly how it all ends.

dallasanderson1
dallasanderson1

EA make great games but the serves suck...big time.. at least here in aussie...i havent been able to play need for speed online for 8 mnths

blindMILITIA
blindMILITIA

Definitely, EA's strategy is sneaky and underhanded. I like to call it the Uwe Boll Offensive. You take the great IP's by many awesome developers, acquire the licenses to those IP's, and subsequently make a movie/game attached to the IP as quickly and as cheaply as possible. This way, just the name is enough to pull in a profit for the project, it doesn't HAVE to be good or well-designed.

imrlybord7
imrlybord7

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

xitwenty20ix
xitwenty20ix

EA better sort out their servers before they release a MMO game. They have trouble suppoting 8 players...

zgreenwell
zgreenwell

I don't think EA bought Bioware so they could change their already winning formula. If EA is going to mess with anything at Bioware it would probably giving them a healthy influx to their advertising department. I think EA wants Bioware to keep making great games as much as gamers do. We'll just have to see if they can actually remember that 3-4 months down the line.

fearrich
fearrich

Bioware being taken is either the begining of the end for games. Or the beginning of the end for EA. Lets hope its the latter