As far as hot messes go, Mass Effect Andromeda has been comfortably been the hottest mess of 2017. In gaming at least; there’s been enough high profile cock-ups elsewhere to last us a lifetime. At the end of the day though, when we think of Mass Effect Andromeda with level heads, there are far worse games out there. It wasn’t even terrible, but a much-loved franchise veering into decidedly average territory.
A week or so ago reports surfaced that the disappointing response to Andromeda meant EA was putting Mass Effect on ice, sidelining the sci-fi series for a good few years until the ill will had blown over. Any plans BioWare had for Mass Effect Andromeda 2 were effectively cancelled at that point. All members of the BioWare Montreal team were then distributed among EA’s other studios to help with other projects.
Drilling down to the absolute truth of the Mass Effect Andromeda controversy is an almost impossible task though. EA has nothing to gain from revealing its inner machinations and the thinking behind its decisions. However, the prevailing theory, and indeed the one that makes the most sense, is that EA pushed BioWare Montreal to release Mass Effect Andromeda before the end of March in order to meet financial targets.
Delving a little into accounting here, the reasoning behind this is the improper booking of revenues. Before a game is out, a publisher has both forecasts for sales figures and pre-orders. These pre-orders are classed as realisable. That is to say, the company has a reasonable expectation these orders will be kept. However, shareholders require that income is both realisable and earned, ie, that the publisher has provided the finished goods and a transaction has taken place. Without realising and earning the revenue, it’s akin to EA turning up to a shareholders meeting and saying it’s going to earn $1 billion in revenue from the 30 million copies of Mass Effect Andromeda it’s got sat in a warehouse. EA would like to record the revenue associated with the transaction before the fact, however, shareholders are only concerned with the actual point of sale.
Mass Effect Andromeda’s launch came right at the tail-end of the 2017 Financial Year (FY2017), meaning if it didn’t launch in time, EA would have a big fat red column next to BioWare for the previous 12 months. Pushing MEA out, in whatever state, could guarantee a certain number of sales that would shift those particular finances into the black. This, in turn, makes EA look like a more attractive financial proposition, regardless of what gamers thought of the end product and the impact it has had on the Mass Effect franchise as a whole.
All of that really leads us down the path that Mass Effect Andromeda was released before it was ready. That BioWare Montreal would have perhaps liked a bit more development time for fine-tuning the performance, narrative, animation, etc. It didn’t get that and the backlash from the community was huge, effectively wiping out the chance of us seeing a new Mass Effect title for a good few years. This was a game that had a huge weight of expectation upon it, following in the footsteps of countless well-received games in the preceding months. It didn’t succeed on this front, and within a matter of hours of going live on Origin Access, the internet was baying for blood. There were hilarious GIFs galore, disappointing impressions and a sense that BioWare had let the fans down.
It’s difficult to apportion blame in this situation, but do you think the general reaction was unfair on both Mass Effect Andromeda and BioWare? Is EA chiefly to blame? And will it regret its decisions in the long run? Let us know!