Electronic Arts today shut down Visceral Games, the studio behind Dead Space and Battlefield Hardline - and that was busy working on a new Star Wars game by Uncharted director/cowriter Amy Hennig.
That's terrible news for Visceral's employees, many of whom will likely lose their jobs, joining legions of developers whose studios have been purchased, restructured, and ultimately shuttered by Electronic Arts. But for civilians, the reasoning is just as much of a pisser. The decision to close Visceral comes alongside a "pivot" in the design of its Star Wars game, according to a statement by EA executive VP Patrick Söderlund:
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.
See, what Visceral (as well as developers at EA Motive in Montreal) had been working on was an entirely single-player, pretty-much linear experience akin to Uncharted. But that's not where the AAA video game business is headed right now. Big-budget games today need open worlds, live events, multiplayer, loot boxes, RPG elements, crafting, upgradeable weapons, microtransactions, and pattable animals. (OK, I'm not being snarky about the pattable animals.) We've seen the EA-owned BioWare move from story-driven RPGs to MMOs (Star Wars: The Old Republic) and online loot-shooters (Anthem); Visceral's Star Wars game will apparently follow suit. It's unclear what shape it'll eventually take, but it'll likely look more like Assassin's Creed or Destiny than Uncharted.
For what it's worth, here's the one tiny glimpse EA gave of the new game (amongst its other Star Wars titles) at E3 Expo last year:
Now, the game's development will shift to other EA studios, principally EA Vancouver; its release has been pushed back from "2019" to "indefinitely". Cherish whatever single-player, story-driven games get released by major studios in the coming years. Support them, because they're special.