Despite maintaining a steady 1.3 million subscribers after dipping from 1.7 million in February, BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic hasn’t become the World of Warcraft killer EA hoped it would become. As such, BioWare has announced the layoffs of an unknown number of members of the team responsible for development of the title.
BioWare co-founder Dr. Greg Zeschuk stated on the company’s forums:
“Sadly, we are bidding farewell to some talented, passionate and exceptionally hard-working people who helped make SWTOR a reality. Impacting people’s lives this way is always very hard, but we’re ensuring the affected people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.”
“Looking forward, the studio remains vibrant and passionate about our many upcoming initiatives for Star Wars: The Old Republic. We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today.”
Additionally, EA has also released a statement on the matter:
“BioWare has restructured its studio in Austin today. Of the employees impacted, some will be able to join other projects within EA, others will leave the company. These are very difficult decisions, but it allows us to focus our staff to maintain and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare Austin remains a large and important part of BioWare and EA, working with other studios around the world to continue to deliver a high-quality service and exciting new content for Star Wars: The Old Republic.”
The news of the layoffs have come amidst reports that 25% of subscriptions being cancelled since Star Wars: The Old Republic was released.
Analysis: This isn’t the first time that a title from EA has performed rather well but hasn’t lived up to the exceptionally high demands of the publisher (read: Battlefield 3). This stems from the simple fact that EA likes to issue challenges to other publishers in markets that are more or less dominated.
For the longest time, Battlefield 3 was marketed as a Call of Duty killer, and honestly, people who enjoy that series simply aren’t going to move onto another anytime soon. By promoting it as essentially a carbon copy, all EA achieved was alienating the original fans of the Battlefield franchise. Instead of finding their own niche within the first-person shooter genre, they thought they could take down the goliath that is Call of Duty at their own game and lost. The same can be said with Star Wars: The Old Republic and that title’s goal to be a World of Warcraft killer.
I don’t see this as a fault of DICE or BioWare, but rather EA and their need to wrestle away fans from established franchises rather than be confident in their own product. Nevertheless, here’s hoping that few were affected at BioWare and that the people who unfortunately did lose their jobs are able to find another one soon.