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Electronic Arts said its Edmonton, Canada-based BioWare studio will lay off 50 people from the team even as Dragon Age: Dreadwolf is in the final stages of development.
The layoffs are likely to be a blow to morale at the studio and make the development environment even more difficult. Gary McKay, general manager of the developer, told the staff at A Today’s statement The move is intended to make the EA-owned developer a more flexible and focused studio. EA has an estimated 12,000 to 13,000 employeesAnd BioWare probably had 250 people.
“In order to meet the needs of our upcoming projects, continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards of quality and ensure BioWare continues to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry, we must shift towards a more agile and more focused studio,” McKay said. “It will allow our developers to iterate quickly, unlock more creativity, and form a clear vision of what we’re building before ramping up development.”
He added, “To achieve this, we find ourselves in a situation where change is not only necessary, but inevitable. As hard as it may be to say, rethinking our approach to development inevitably means realigning our team to fit the studio’s changing needs. As part of this shift, we’ve eliminated approximately 50 BioWare roles. This is very painful and humbling to write. We do everything we can to ensure that the process is handled with empathy, respect and clear communication.
In addition, the moves are accompanied by some related event or perhaps coincidence. An EA spokesperson said the company was unable to reach an agreement with a portion of Keywords, a large game services company, that provides play-testing services. In June 2022, this small portion of Keywords had a group of contractors who voted to unionize.
EA said that it was unable to create a new contract and therefore will allow the current contract to expire on September 27th. It’s not clear what would happen to contractors without an EA contract, but it’s a fair guess that some keyword jobs are likely to be lost unless they find other work.
An industry source said EA has renewed work orders with Keywords Studios since its employees voted in favor of unionizing in June 2022. But the source added that in this case, the two companies simply could not agree to terms. Keyword contract requirements exceeded what EA/Bioware needed due to the change in the studio’s development approach.
The layoff also comes about three months after EA moved production of its multiplayer online game, Star Wars The Old Republicto an outside publisher, Broadsword, in Reston, Virginia. The game first appeared in 2011 and has gone into maintenance mode.
Broadsword has also acquired games like Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot so that players can continue to play them. McKay said BioWare’s focus will be on delivering “exceptional, story-driven single-player experiences packed with expansive worlds and rich characters”.
McKay’s leadership will not be affected. Michael Gamble, who has been with BioWare for 15 years, will continue to serve as team lead for Mass Effect. Currently, the studio is in pre-production for the next game in the Mass Effect series. Corinne Bosch and John Epler, two of Dragon Age’s leaders, also continue in their roles.
Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, announced last March that the company would cut about 6% of its total workforce, and these cuts are linked to the move.
McKay said EA chose to act now to provide affected colleagues with as many internal opportunities as possible. These changes coincide with a large number of roles currently open across other EA studios. Affected employees will be provided with career resources and assistance as they apply to these positions. Departures will receive in-game credit.
“While it is unlikely that everyone will find a new role within the company, we are committed to supporting our people as they navigate this change. Our sincere hope is that they can continue their exemplary work in studios that will greatly benefit from their talents,” McKay said.
McKay said EA is committed to developing Dreadwolf and has never wavered.
“Our commitment remains unwavering, and we are all working to make this game worthy of the Dragon Age name. We are confident that we will have the time necessary to ensure that Dragon Age reaches its full potential,” Mackay said. “I can also tell you that every member of our team, even those Those leaving BioWare deserve credit for crafting an amazing experience. These are our colleagues and friends, and we wouldn’t be here without them. I’m very proud of all the work our team has done.”
“Although this is a very difficult day for everyone at BioWare, we’re making changes now to build an even brighter future,” MacKay said. “We’re excited to see all of you what we’ve built with Dreadwolf. A veteran core team led by Mike Gamble continues pre-production work on the game next Mass Effect. Our commitment to quality remains our North Star.”
EA has not said when Dragon Age: Dreadwolf will be released.
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