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Q&A: BioWare On The EA Acquisition

Q&A: BioWare On The EA Acquisition

October 12, 2007 | By Christian Nutt

October 12, 2007 | By Christian Nutt
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Following the earlier discussion with Pandemic, Gamasutra sat down with BioWare to get their take on the acquisition by EA.

In the interview, president and co-executive producer Greg Zeschuk and chairman, CEO and co-executive producer Ray Muzyka discuss the deal from their perspective, detailing what the studio will gain, and what the change means for maintaining the freedom to continue developing in their idiosyncratic style.

When we talked to Pandemic, they used the word "driving," saying they "drove" the acquisition. How does BioWare feel, from your perspective?

Ray Muzyka: I think we're really excited about the addition of John Riccitiello. We've known him for a couple years now, and we've worked with him really closely, and we're excited to work with him again. To work for him, actually, again. Also, the other folks, the people on his team, guys like Frank Gibeau, they share the same values that we have.

I think this is really a collaborative kind of partnership where we're really striving to pursue excellence, innovation, creativity, and quality in our products. Quality in our workplace. Trying to make the best place in the world for a team, and entrepreneurship. Really, trying to think of new ways to innovate and trying to reach new kinds of fans, drive the excellence that BioWare's known for to even more people. I think the great publishing and marketing support, with the great development and marketing resources we already have at BioWare.

So you're not worried at all that your personal style of running your studio will change post-acquisition?

Greg Zeschuk: No, we're really excited about the chance to work with John again. We had a great working relationship in the early days of BioWare and Pandemic, and we have a strong vision for what we want to do. I think we think that BioWare-Pandemic joining EA gives us the chance to do even more stuff. Everyone always knows BioWare's very focused on making quality games. We think this gives us even more people to interact with, more things to learn, more technology, more know-how to share and get -- to do things even better.

RM: We're really excited about the opportunity. This presents a huge opportunity in terms of integration, and just being able to tap into more resources, and that's the best part.

You're not at all worried about losing BioWare's identity and becoming "EA Edmonton?"

RM: I think BioWare is known for a lot of things, and it's associated with quality. We're really proud of that. We have great people here that make it happen, and that's only going to be enhanced by this. That's really what Frank and John and the other folks at EA are looking for. They're looking for excellence in games, the best story-driven games in the world. We're proud to be part of that team.

Do you think this deal heralds a change for EA, in terms of bringing less, say mass-market games to this console generation?

GZ: I think there's been a lot of discussion outwardly about the structural changes that have gone on at EA, around the new label law they've adopted. One thing you have to keep in mind, too, is that John has an opportunity to work right on the ground level with some really great developers -- BioWare-Pandemic. What we bring to our products is to create that passion, excitement. What what better way to do it than to do it in the largest video game company in the world.

RM: We can only talk from our perspective in working with John, spending a lot of time him and Frank recently, and how much respect we have for both of them. How passionate they are about the things that we bring, and how excited they are to have us join.

And it's mutual -- it's mutual respect, and we definitely trust the vision they've expressed, as being one that's really grounded on delivering great consumer experience, and the best games in the world. They are the best publisher in the world, and I think the fans are going to see great things in the future from us as a team.

You continue to retain your IPs, such as Mass Effect, and other projects you're working on?

GZ: Yeah, we own Mass Effect. It's almost done, and it's really awesome. Ray and I have finished it multiple times. We've played it a ton, and we can really confidently say it's the best thing BioWare's ever made. It's a truly amazing game.

We've done a lot of other things, in the past, talking about Dragon Age in the past as well, that's something we'll be talking more about shortly, and a couple other little things under our hat that we're not talking about. We've got unique IP we're creating, as well as the Sonic DS game we're working on as well. Lot of things in the oven right now.

Mass Effect will continue to be an MGS game, at least the current iteration, and Sonic will continue to be published by Sega, correct?

RM: Yep. Microsoft and Sega are great partners, and we're proud to work with them. Mass Effect is... certainly Microsoft has added a ton of value to that product, and it's an Xbox 360 exclusive, and we really hand-crafted it, really carefully, to make sure that it's taking full advantage of the platform, and the fans are going to get a great game out of it. It's been a great partnership with Sega as well. We're really proud to work on the Sonic RPG for DS.

Now that you're moving forward with EA, are you going to be utilizing any of their tools and technology, and infrastructure and other resources?

GZ: There's certainly the opportunity to. One of the things we're quite excited about is, I just think in their 'technology club', so to speak, there's a lot of amazing technology in the company, and we've got some really great technology as well. So a real sort of organic way we can sort of share what we've done and learn what they've done and find things that can make better games, and that's just great for the gamers.

At your Austin GDC session you made it clear that you've got, let's say, an idiosyncratic development style, with story tied closely and fully integrated to the way you develop games. Do you feel like there might be external pressure to develop in a more standardized, top-down way?

RM: You gotta go back to our mission statement in the studio: to deliver the best story-driven games in the world. I think that really says a lot about what our value set is and what we're trying to pursue. I think we're excited to pursue that, and innovate even more in that space.

Do you think your MMO was part of the attraction for EA, despite not shipping for a while?

GZ: Certainly, we have a good idea what the game is and it's really exciting, and we've been tantalizing folks because we've been talking about how it's been playing. We played that last week, and it's really cool. It's a great place to be right now.

Online is a huge market, and we think that the talent that we can bring and the thought and the know-how to the online space is great. Making a massively multiplayer game in the BioWare mold, in some way, is very exciting. I think we can't help but think that's something worth getting.


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