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Fallout From the BioWare/Pandemic Buyout 89

Yesterday's announcement of EA's purchase of BioWare and Pandemic took a lot of people by surprise. Today, there's some more information, reactions, and assurances from the people involved in the move. First and foremost: Mass Effect should not be affected by this purchase. The future of the series is still up in the air, but the game we've all be waiting for is still slated for a November 20th release exclusive to the Xbox 360. EA held a conference call about the buyout soon after it was announced, and answers a number of questions about specifics. FiringSquad has a feature on the reaction from the developers, and that piece has some assurances that EA's CEO John Riccitiello has the best interests of the new acquisitions at heart. Gamasutra has a Q&A with Pandemic's management team, which wants to point out that Pandemic/BioWare and their parent company drove this deal forward; this was not a hostile acquisition. Likewise Gamespot has a chat with the BioWare co-founders, who are equally excited about the deal. This may have been surprising, but if the two companies were onboard with this move it can hardly be dire, right?
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Fallout From the BioWare/Pandemic Buyout

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  • game over (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aurisor ( 932566 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:44AM (#20952737) Homepage
    Anyone else feel like you're in a zombie movie and your best friend just got bitten?

    Me: Bioware? Bioware!?
    Me: Nooooooo!

    *cocks shotgun*

    • That's hilarious, but it is one of the best descriptions of the reactions we've seen from gamers: shock, disbelief, sadness, maybe some feelings of betrayal, and most of all a resolve to do what needs to be done...
    • by CHK6 ( 583097 )
      Nothing is better than the funny wit of slashdot readers! I thank you for the nice shine you just put on Friday!
    • Brilliant. One of the few posts that I wish I could mod up over five. The zombie analogy is spot-on! When I read this, I had a vision of a giant Borg cube that was slowly assimilating all of the great game devs in the world and turning them into bean-counters.

      But the zombie thing? Me likey.
    • by vimh42 ( 981236 )
      When my wife read the announcement, the first thing she said was "Oh No." From the tone of her voice, I thought she just read a story about somebody killing puppies or beating up elderly people. Maybe I'll feel better after reading what the founders have to say about everything. I ended my comment on the Bioware forums by saying Mass Disappointment. Sure that's lame sounding, but but that's what I feel.
  • by dtolman ( 688781 ) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:49AM (#20952811) Homepage
    The fact that they have pampered Will Wright, and pretty much let him do whatever he wants (on two projects now - the Sims and Spore, is a good sign they know how in theory how to not destroy a creative development team. If they can extend that good practice to the entire Bioware group... maybe this won't end up being a disaster like Origin's buyout...
    • Ever heard the phrase "There's only room enough for one of us in this town" ?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dtolman ( 688781 )
        Yeah - but EA isn't a town - its a continent. As long as they aren't working out of the same office (and keep their release dates a few months apart), I'm sure they'll never realize they ain't the center of the EA universe...
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The fact that we've seen nothing substantial about the game mechanics and the long delay I have to claim vaporware.

      The best we've seen is a celebrity demoing a maya plug in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by techpawn ( 969834 )
      I see this as EA is more financial backing for these creative minds. As long as they can continue to do what they've been doing EA most likely won't muck up what works. Just add a successful name to the portfolio and keep them fed.

      Then again, look at the SIMS expansion packs...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is not entirely true of The Sims. Will Wright had to develop a lot of The Sims off the clock and in secret just to get a demo going to convince the then EA management that it was an idea worth pursuing. He had to fight a lot to get that game greenlighted:

      "Don Mattrick, a former top Electronic Arts executive who was involved in the company's 1997 acquisition of Maxis, said the company's then-management didn't know how to deal with Mr. Wright. "They had a hard time communicating with Will," Mr. Mattric
    • Let's not forget that Will Wright practically forced EA to let him make the Sims.
    • by crossmr ( 957846 )
      we covered it yesterday but we'll cover it again now. The Sims is not in good shape right now. They might be pumping out an expansion or stuff pack every other week, but that doesn't mean its quality or that people are happy with it. Most of the original development team is gone from what I've gathered (will took most of them to spore). The Sims is basically life support for the rest of the company and EA is doing their darndest to screw that up. Have a look at the community response to the switch from safe
    • haha, riiight, or they just do a good job of maintaining the illusion that he gets to do whatever he wants. ;)
  • the MMO? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by genrader ( 563784 )
    Does anyone know if this will affect the MMO that bioware has been working on? I have always trusted bioware but the fact EA had to find some way to acquire them shows me EA is desperate and that this MMO may suck now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RogueyWon ( 735973 )
      No idea whatsoever. However, part of me wonders if the MMO is related. Perhaps Bioware did a serious look at the costs involved in setting up and maintaining a large-scale MMO and decided that they wouldn't be able to get the ball rolling without some serious financial backing.

      Running an MMO game world with hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of players in a persistent environment, with tens of thousands at the very least per server, is very different to managing the community for something like NWN, w
      • Re:the MMO? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Reapman ( 740286 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @11:11AM (#20954263)
        Does EA run any MMO's other then Ultima Online? Sims Online, NFS MOtorcity or w/e it was called, died horrible deaths last I heard. UO2 and UO:X was cancelled. I agree that they may have cringed when looking at the realities of running an MMO, but I don't think EA would be at the top of my list of companies that can run an MMO well. Hell I'd pick SoE over em, and that is NOT saying much considering I've despised most of their games.

        All the assurances in the world still don't get the bad taste that Westwood and Origin's deaths created. I hope I'm wrong.
        • by Minupla ( 62455 )
          Um, Ultima Online? :)

          They actually interviewed me to be a NOC manager there once.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Pandur77 ( 1172799 )
          EA bought Mythic some time ago (and renamed them to EA Mythic) which is the developer of Dark Age of Camelot. EA Mythic is also developing the new Warhammer MMO.
        • by brkello ( 642429 )
          Let's pretend what the Parent post said was true. If they were to go to EA, it wouldn't be because they wanted EA to run the MMO. It is because they would want access to the giant money vault so they could make it happen.
    • Suck? It won't suck. It won't exist. Look at the track record for yourself. Ultima X: Odyssey. Ultima Online 2. Battletech 3025. Earth & Beyond. Motor City Online. About the only MMORPG released by EA that wasn't canned before release or canned only a few months after release was Sims Online (Lord knows why).

      Chris Mattern
    • As for the MMO plan, from the first gamasutra story linked in the original post:

      "As for how the 10 new franchises spaced out over the next few years, the company confirmed that it would be fairly evenly over the 2009, 2010, and 2011 fiscal years, revealing that the BioWare MMO currently in development at BioWare Austin is planned towards the back half of that three year outlook."

      As far as funding goes, I'm sure part of Bioware's motivation in this deal was the security of publishing it would give them for t
  • Hardly (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaseyB ( 1105 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:50AM (#20952845)

    This may have been surprising, but if the two companies were onboard with being given stacks of cash so large they require heavy machinery to move it can hardly be dire, right?

    Fixed that for you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Miltazar ( 1100457 )
      That is exactly why this went forward. What just because a company went along with it, somehow it changes the fact? EA still is EA, whether this is a hostile take-over or them dumping piles of cash on Bioware. Origin Systems went willingly as well, what happened to them? Oh yeah, their founders eventually realized it was a bad idea and left. Now the company that had some great franchises, such as Wing Commander, Ultima, etc, now only makes Ultima Online expansions. The truth is that they did it for th
  • Didn't this get enough coverage yesterday?

    http://games.slashdot.org/games/07/10/11/2053228.shtml [slashdot.org]

    WTF cares?
    • Yesterday was the announcement, today's the analysis, and it's sorely needed. To a gamer who's head hasn't been up their ass the past ten or so years, Bioware's a big deal. Pandemic has also been making a name for itself the past few years with titles like Star Wars Battlefront and Mercenaries. In the game industry, yesterday's announcement was like saying "Nuclear war between the US and Russia!" and today's is, "What got us here and how can you survive the nuclear holocaust?"
  • Frankly, in the big "who's the most evil empire" game, I don't see EA as necessarily worse than Atari (who created huge problems with WotC game IP left and right) and Microsoft (whom we all know and loathe).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BarneyL ( 578636 )
      The difference between Microsoft and EA is that Microsoft wants to destroy the competition. EA seem out to destroy the industry.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by azuredrake ( 1069906 )
        This is not true at all. EA gets a lot of flak for previous acquisitions (Westwood, Origin) where the move was widely seen as just buying the IP and then cannibalizing an otherwise perfectly creative studio. However, their new CEO, John Ricotello, has a very accurate vision for how to move the company forward into developing new IP and really amping up the creative side of game design, rather than just the business side. I've heard him speak, and he really does know exactly what he's talking about. Furth
        • Sadly, it's a lesson I learned the hard way. As a result, I don't believe a single word any executive (especially at the CxO level) utters in any public forum.

          Here's why: the CEOs main duty is to his/her stockholders. Anything they say that depresses stock value is a reason for the board to can them. Not only that, but anything that depresses stock value results in a massive hit to their wallet. As a result, CEOs are at best circumspect when they talk. At worst, they outright lie. They're especially prone t
          • Actually, at best they outright lie, and worst they are circumspect. If they are lying, you at least know what not to believe.
    • by crossmr ( 957846 )
      Atari didn't own bioware. You can also be sure that its unlikely that bioware will ever be involved in anything D&D again, not even in name.
  • The title include the word "fallout", yet nothing in the blurb justifies the use.

    Damn sensationalist /. eds!
    • by anduz ( 1027854 )
      It does have some merit, a lot of Bioware's community users are pretty much attending one big funeral on several of the official Bioware forums.
  • This may have been surprising, but if the two companies were onboard with this move it can hardly be dire, right?

    Such naive optimism! I miss those days before my heart was a dried up little rotten apple of cynicism. Oh well, I'll give it a try. Yeah... right... this can't be that bad. It's probably even a ...

    Oh, never mind.
  • EA is always looking out for others--especially their customers! Thanks for the mac versions of year-old games! When do you predict they will start working?

    "the best interests of the new acquisitions at heart"...
    Translation: EA and EA's bottom line.
    • Transgaming Inc, the company behind the technology that allowed EA to port their Direct-X based PC games to Mac, now has had a successful implementation of their conversion engine on a large scale. This could be used to port ANY DirectX game to an x86 Mac. I know for a fact that all four of the Mac games released work perfectly fine on Intel macs, as I have run them all myself - are you running a g4 or g5? If so, that's why it's not working.
      • I know for a fact that the performance sucks compared to the windows version, as I own 2142 for both mac and windows. I also have a 2.4GHz MBP, so it's certainly not beyond the capability of the computer.
        Additionally, I've used transgaming's linux releases (Point2Play, etc) before, and was not impressed--especially by their licensing model.
        I don't consider "success" to be 50-60% performance in a port. I'm beyond the CAN they do it, and am questioning the HOW WELL they did it.
  • With EA's earlier pledge to bring Games to the MAC platform this could break new ground easily for Bioware/Pandemic who might not have had the financial or technical resources themselves. This sort of move gives all parties involved a lot of leverage and with the upswing in sales of Mac it is hard for games companies to ignore the platform. As successful as the products lines from B/P have been it is a no-brain move for them to pursue EA and for EA to willingly pick them up. EA gets more proven product li
    • by crossmr ( 957846 )
      Did you just use EA and "break new ground" in the same sentence? without a negative? How do you sleep at night?
  • Dumb move by EA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CHK6 ( 583097 ) on Friday October 12, 2007 @10:52AM (#20953927)
    If John Riccitiello thinks this acquisition will help EA he's overly optimistic. Not because Bioware is a shill (in fact the opposite), but if I was a Bioware employee with a large stake I'd cash out now before stepping back into the corporate culture and schedule demands. So EA paid through the nose to pay for a major stake holder position, yet it's that money that gives employees no incentive to stick around. Maybe Bioware's employees have no stake in all of this, but I doubt the principle developers don't have a monetary stake. But there are so many other companies getting all lathered up thinking about taking those wanting to jump ship. Maybe a RPG in the EVE universe? Also take that many of Bioware's Austin employees are ex-EA peeps, I doubt bad blood is washed clean.

    The gravy trained just pulled in to the station. Get off now because the next leg of the trip is over a rickety and unproven wooden bridge. The last few trains that came along the EA route derailed and burned.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GregPK ( 991973 )

      Every person I've worked with that was involved with EA takeover in some way pretty much took thier Cash and left.

      A great number of good games could have been made had EA not done thier best to destroy them. Or release everything they make with Serious bug issues.

      Microsoft back in the early days of gaming did everything they could to foster the creativity of gaming into what it is today. With big budgets, big parties, big group gatherings.

      God those were the days when I was happy to be in the industr
      • We discussed this in our podcast last night. Tis a double edged sword. If the extra $ translates over into great gaming experiences; furthermore, experiences that EVERYONE can participate in--ala, having the financial backing to publish multi-platform--, then the consumer wins. The fear is that the big company looses it's focus and puts out a lesser product. More important, is if they don't care since they know they'll see a return for their investment. Perhaps this has been done with certain titles, w
      • I can only think of one noteable exception. When EA bought out Distinctive Software in 91' we actually got a pretty outstanding driving sim (NFS). Unfortunately then the EA suits took over, and turned the sequels into lame arcade-physics race titles. Over the years EA has published some great titles, too bad they haven't figured out how to write any.

        Every person I've worked with that was involved with EA takeover in some way pretty much took thier Cash and left. A great number of good games could have b

        • by GregPK ( 991973 )
          The old need for speed was amazing... I remember talking to a product manager once. Asking him "will you ever release Porsche Unleashed again?" His response to this was "that game was harddddd". I had to chuckle in that it was probably the best overall realistic racing game that the Need For Speed series ever released. After that, it wasn't as much fun. It was just lame arcade physics beyond that which pretty much stopped me from buying Need for Speed all together.

          Forza 1, Forza 2, Dirt, GT1, GT2, GT3,
    • by i8-p ( 951301 )
      Remember that this is the second time Riccitiello has bought Bioware and Pandemic. The first time was as a partner in Elevation Partners, the private equity firm that has owned the studios for the past two years. I don't remember seeing an exedus when Elevation bought them. A big part of the reason is that PE folks are very wary of key employees jumping ship and taking the value they just bought with them, so they give them $$ incentives to stay. The same will stay true here; employees won't be cashing
    • Riccitiello just handed his old pals at Elevation Partners and VG Holdings (and probably himself in some circuitous fashion) a big, fat 840 million dollar gift. Think about it:
      - Elevation Partners bought both Pandemic and Bioware in 2005 for 300 million dollars.
      - just 2 years later, the two companies are bought for 2.7 times that amount.
      - Riccitiello was part-founder of Elevation Partners.
      - Riccitiello was CEO of VG Holdings.
      - Riccitiello left the position of CEO of VG Holdings and partner at Elevation Part
  • Just a thought... I ventured over to http://www.transgaming.com/ [transgaming.com] , the company that EA worked with to do their Mac ports, and discovered that their front page is advertising EVE now being available for Mac and linux. Maybe we'll see future Bioware/Pandemic games, or any IP acquired by EA in the merger, ported to these systems as well? That could be neat.
  • GZ: We can't predict the future. We'll see what happens. The key thing is we now plan on making thirteen thousand Mass Effect games, and we've got a great story arc.

    • No shit hey. I can see it now. Mass Effect 2008: Space-farer Expansion Set 4. Man, EA pisses me off... I'm barely even joking about that game title - it'll probably happen, just with a different title for the expansion. Just look at the countless fucking expansions for The Sims. Now combine that with something like Madden or NFS or any of those other games they update every single year (or even more often).
  • "Do you like my hat? It's made of MONEY!"
  • The last thing I need is Madden announcing when I roll a 20 for a critical hit.
  • How many companies are under EA now? If EA ever go down, won't we see a huge void all of the sudden as all the creative game labs also go down with it?
    • as if millions of Sims cried out in pain... and then were silent.
    • by crossmr ( 957846 )
      The creative will be gone from those labs long before EA folds...
    • Er, *what* creative game labs? Creative game labs is what you have *before* acquisition by EA--not after.

      Chris Mattern
    • The void will be filled. After EA gets done raping an aquired company, all thats left is the IP...which they will shelve next to the other hundreds of unused items. All the talented people that EA thinks that it buys with these acquisions aren't actually slaves attached to the purchased entity, they can just leave and go form another company. Look at the end run around the system shock IP that Bioshock was...the IP is worth something, but when you pull the people behind it out of the mix it quickly loses va
  • I could hurl expletives at EA for destroying yet another decent development house - and who seriously entertains the possibility that BioWare's talent is going to be left to continue life as usual? However, what strikes me as more unbelievable is that so many damn studios keep selling to them.

    AFAIK this wasn't a forced takeover. So why are so many development houses willing to feed their brainchild to the evil empire? It's getting ridiculous. It seems like the goal is to rise to fame on the backs of
    • It's simple:

      1) Build a Development House
      2) Sell Development House to EA for $$$
      3) Quit EA
      4) Goto step 1

      It's the ultimate money making scheme for those in the business.
      • I'm all for pulling the rug out from under EA like that. The ONLY problem I see with that is that EA now owns any properties created by the early development house. I'm sure half of BioWare (if not more) will quit within a month and form another company, but Mass Effect - planned as a trilogy, is effectively dead now. I suppose they could do what Monolith did when they formed outside of Squaresoft and changed Xenogears to Xenosaga. Maybe Matter Effect, or Mass Affect? That would probably work if EA aban
    • Ummm... bioware didn't sell to anybody. Might want to read a little closer, Bioware had no say in this at all. Their parent company, VG Holdings, are the ones who sold out. Bioware and Pandemic, being wholly own subsidiary companies, are without choice in the matter.
      • I concede the point. I had not read the full article just the tagline at the time I wrote this - shouldn't have done that, but I was very angry and not thinking clearly.

        The fact still remains, however, that at some point BioWare surrendered control of their own destiny, presumably for money, and now we all suffer because of it. So it is still BioWare's fault that they've been destroyed.

        In its effort to produce positive spin, that article assumes overmuch about Ricceletto's intentions. EA has told a
  • by dauthur ( 828910 )
    EA seems a little too eager to become to the largest monopoly in gaming. The problem is, they push their games too fast toward their ship dates which are set too soon. Games like Battlefield 2142 and NFS Pro-Street could be much, MUCH more awesome and much less glitchy. The problem with the entire NFS collection is the lack of realism in any regard. It's less like a driving similator and more like an arcade game. I don't like that. As for Battlefield, there's a huge market for hacking in that quadrant of th
    • by GregPK ( 991973 )
      Check out Need for Speed Porsche Unleashed for the PC. Best one they ever made in my opinion.
      • by smash ( 1351 )
        ... and even that was crap :D I warezed it (off a friend), and even so I didn't bother to keep it installed more than say 45 minutes. I would not even bother wasting the bandwidth to download any of the NFS series. NFS 1 was pretty cool because the graphics were a revolution. Every one since has been ... "meh".
        • by GregPK ( 991973 )
          I wouldn't say it was crap... For the time, it was quite realistic, and the difficulty level made it challenging to get through. I'm a realism guy what can I say.
      • Best one was Hot Pursuit 2 for the PS2.
  • Bioware has something that EA hasn't had since Bard's Tale - creativity. Things may go smoothly for a while, perhaps a good MMO and a few good single player games will emerge. But eventually things will go bad. EA is in the business of selling sequels and that can't last. They will eventually over extend themselves on high-cost sequel like Madden or Major League and have to suck out all of Bioware's resource out to meet the bills or they will take Bioware creations and run them into the ground (Knight of t
  • by MWoody ( 222806 ) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @12:49AM (#20963493)
    You son of a bitch. You don't include "fallout," "bioware," and "pandemic" in an article title like that, ever. Now I have to change pants, and all for naught.

Variables don't; constants aren't.