It’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
After four years in development of a yet-unnamed Star Wars game, publisher giant EA has suddenly shut down Visceral Games. Developers of the (mostly) critically acclaimed Dead Space series, Visceral is closing down after 19 years, and development of the Star Wars game is being handed off to a new EA studio.
Notably in the announcement, EA executive vice president Patrick Söderlund describes the changes they’re bringing to the development of their Star Wars game, and it doesn’t sound reassuring. In short, he explains the plans to redesign the game into “an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come […] to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency”.
Previously, Visceral’s Star Wars project was described as an action-adventure game akin to Uncharted, even being written by the first three games in the series’ writer Amy Hennig. But if Söderlund’s design changes are to be believed, it seems likely the game is pivoting away from this type of shorter, linear experience.
Even more tragic is that this news comes just four years after the cancellation of a similar action-adventure Star Wars game in development, Star Wars 1313. With many fans seeing Visceral’s Star Wars project as a spiritual continuation of 1313, it seems that hope may now be in question.
And while sudden, this decision isn’t at all unexpected given recent trends in the gaming market. With online multiplayer-focused games like Destiny and Grand Theft Auto V Online reportedly making boatloads of cash long after initial release, development of linear single-player games is making less and less sense. Ubisoft has already attempted to cash in on this trend with games like The Division, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and even a rebooted Beyond Good & Evil incorporating online aspects.
In fact, EA has already made a similar move with their Bioware Edmonton studio. Previously known for developing the Mass Effect series, development of the latest game in the series Mass Effect: Andromeda was handed off so that the team could instead develop Anthem, which looks suspiciously like EA’s attempt at an (albeit cool) looking Destiny clone.
Even further, Visceral Games themselves have fallen victim to EA’s greed in the past too. After the first two Dead Space games were popular, classical survival horror games, the third entry in the series was criticized for being plagued with micro-transactions and a pivot to the more audience-friendly action genre. And while hopes were lowered for another entry in the series after the poor reception of Dead Space 3, they’re all but squashed now.
So pour one out for Visceral Games, a developer killed off far before their time for the sake of profits. Even worse, it seems we may not be getting that action-adventure Star Wars game we all so desperately crave. After all, publishers can’t profit off the masses without plenty of micro-transactions and loot boxes now.