Canadian game developer BioWare has announced it’s eliminating 50 roles at the studio.
“In order to meet the needs of our upcoming projects, continue to hold ourselves to the highest standard of quality, and ensure BioWare can continue to thrive in an industry that’s rapidly evolving, we must shift towards a more agile and more focused studio,” said general manager Gary McKay. “It will allow our developers to iterate quickly, unlock more creativity, and form a clear vision of what we’re building before development ramps up.”
McKay does not clarify how eliminating roles will allow for quicker work or more creativity, only that “rethinking [BioWare’s] approach to development inevitably means reorganizing our team to match the studio’s changing needs.”
Those who follow BioWare news are familiar with hearing about layoffs by now. Earlier this year, BioWare’s parent company, EA, laid off 800 employees. We also learned recently that BioWare will not be renewing its contract with Keywords, a company that provided it with playtesting services. It came after Keywords’ contractors unionized last year, but an industry source told Venture Beat that the choice not to renew was because Keywords’ services “exceeded what EA/Bioware needed given the change in development approach at the studio.”
Former BioWare developers have gone on to open their own studios and make incredible games. Aaryn Flynn, a former BioWare General Manager, is working on a Victorian-era fantasy survival game called Nightingale. Former BioWare Game Director Casey Hudson has opened Humanoid Studios. And former BioWare lead writer David Gaider went on to write Stray Gods, a critically acclaimed roleplaying game.
BioWare’s future, meanwhile, has felt precarious for some time.
Anthem is BioWare’s latest game (not including Mass Effect: Legendary Edition). It’s a multiplayer first-person shooter that came out in 2019 and received harsh criticism from journalists and players alike for a poor story and lack of content. The team was working on a revamp of Anthem, but that was cancelled altogether in early 2021.
We’ve received teasers for the upcoming Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, but delays on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf have left fans disappointed and anxious. Earlier this year, Gaider commented on X (Twitter, at the time) about how, over time, writers at BioWare became “quietly resented.”
With all this in mind, it’s difficult to blame fans for anxiety and frustration over the news.
So yeah I'm caught up on the Bioware news and feelin mad
I've got a great idea on how y'all can "cut costs" and it doesn't involve firing 50 of the people making your games including MARY KIRBY???
— Alanna Smith 🎮 building wikis for game studios (@AlannaMode) August 23, 2023
“I don’t want “quality games” at the cost of human livelihoods,” said Alanna Smith, Co-Founder of DnA Creative.
“I’m trying not to default to cynicism here, but how can BioWare have not 1 but 2 major projects ramping up & lay off 50 people?” asked Ryan McCaffrey, Executive Editor at IGN. “Are they gonna use contractors instead to cut costs? Is it poor studio mgmt?”
“I think it’s clear when EA said they’re being more agile and focused by cutting job means they’ve started using AI,” speculated writer Jon Karol. “They probably have one or two “AI engineers” or “prompt engineers” to replace those 50 coders and artists.”
BioWare Edmonton writer Mary Kirby was one of the 50 people fired, which has sparked particular outrage among fans since she has been on the team since the first-ever Dragon Age game, Dragon Age: Origins. Kirby acknowledged all the love from fans she’d been receiving in a tweet.
Notifications blew up. To everyone who has reached out: Thank you. It means a lot. And I apologize for my slow response while my brain is stuck doing the equivalent of T-posing. It's bittersweet that Dreadwolf is my last DA game, but I still hope you all love it as much as I do.
— Mary Kirby (@BioMaryKirby) August 24, 2023
McKay assured fans in the blog post that Dragon Age: Dreadwolf is on track and the next Mass Effect is still doing well in pre-development.
“Our commitment remains steadfast, and we all are working to make this game worthy of the Dragon Age name,” he wrote. “We are confident that we’ll have the time needed to ensure Dreadwolf reaches its full potential. … While this is an extremely difficult day for everyone at BioWare, we are making changes now to build a brighter future. We’re excited for all of you to see what we’ve been building with Dreadwolf. A core veteran team led by Mike Gamble continues their pre-production work on the next Mass Effect. Our commitment to quality continues to be our North Star.”