EA is closing down Visceral, the studio responsible for the critically acclaimed survival horror game Dead Space. Visceral was one of the three EA studios working on a Star Wars project, but now it seems like that game will be handled by a different team. A blog post written by Patrick Söderlund, Executive Vice President of EA, says:
“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.”
Sounds to me like someone wants to jump on the Destiny hype train. It is no surprise. Video games are ridiculously expensive to create, and a single-player, linear narrative cannot make any money after the initial purchase. It is why players are seeing more of these types of games incorporate multi-player, loot boxes, or both.
Games like Destiny and Overwatch stand out as games with lasting value. They keep players coming back and spending money on the game long after the initial release. Given that EA announced their own version of Destiny, called Anthem, at this year’s E3, it stands to reason that the company foresees this style of game being much more lucrative than a linear narrative.
In a follow-up email to Kotaku, Söderlund went on to say:
“A development team from across Worldwide Studios will take over development of [the Star Wars game], led by the EA Vancouver team that has already been working on the project. Steve Anthony will lead this team, and we will use much of the work that has been done to date by Visceral – the assets of [this Star Wars game] that have already been built will be the foundation of this new game.”
So it does definitely look like EA is going in a completely different direction. My money is on a Destiny-like game, with Titans, Hunters, and Warlocks replaced with Battle Droids, Bounty Hunters, and Jedi/Sith. EA could be planning to create a game of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt proportions, but knowing how that company operates, it just makes more sense that they would be transforming this Star Wars game into a FPS/MMO hybrid.
It is worrisome to have heard nothing in regards to Amy Hennig, who left Naught Dog in early 2014 to direct this Star Wars game. Where does she go now? In an e-mail, an EA spokesperson said, “We are in discussions with Amy about her next move,” but that is it. Given Hennig’s connection to Uncharted, it stands to reason that a decision to move this Star Wars game away from an Uncharted formula and towards a Destiny formula would not sit will with her. I do hope that she is able to stay on the project to some capacity, but it looks like her move to Visceral may have been a mistake.