It’s been just over a year since I took over as General Manager of BioWare. As we start the new year, I wanted to take the opportunity to look back on 2021, talk about where we are as a studio right now, and share some thoughts and plans for the future.
This has been another challenging year, with both work and home life continuing to be disrupted by the uncertainty of the global pandemic. We’ve had to continue to think on our feet to adapt to changing circumstances. But despite all that, it has been an absolute joy to lead a studio with so many unbelievably talented people, a team that always pushes the envelope through innovation and an unflagging pursuit of quality. Looking back, we had a couple of exciting moments when two people at the studio reached historic milestones: They both celebrated working with BioWare for 25 years! That blows my mind! The entire studio celebrated along with them, and it was amazing hearing what the studio, the people, and the journey have meant to them.
Even with the challenges of the pandemic, we saw some earlier success with the incredible reception to the launch of Mass Effect Legendary Edition in May. From the press to our fans, the feedback has been insanely positive. We’re so proud to have released one of the highest-rated games on console, and the reception really underscores the value of striving for excellence and quality in every element of a game.
This past year certainly hasn’t been without its challenges, though. Continuing to work under the pressure of a world pandemic has not been easy. We’ve had to adopt new tools, processes, and ways to communicate. We’re all balancing personal time and work, and each person is dealing with their own unique situation. The biggest challenge continues to be the uncertainty of it all, which makes everyone’s life more difficult and makes it hard to plan for the future.
But that’s had its upsides, too. We’ve come together as a studio to help each other out, even in our personal lives. We show up for each other and pull together as a team. One example is the February “Snowpocalypse” in Austin when the storm had literally taken down the city. It was encouraging and inspiring to hear how people were going above and beyond to ensure others were safe, including finding shelter or delivering food and water.
The pandemic has also taught us a lot about how we can work together, even while working across North America from hundreds of different locations. And now, we’ll use what we’ve learned and apply it to a new work model that will ensure flexibility for everyone in the studio. Our goal is to lean into the things that everyone likes about working from home, while also giving people the opportunity to return to the office with more flexibility. Going forward, we’ll have new challenges with a hybrid approach to work and are focused on new tech that will help maximize collaboration and communication between onsite and remote people. Another subtle but important change we’ve made is in our hiring practices: Previously, we were only looking for people willing to relocate to Austin and Edmonton; now we’re looking for new talent from anywhere in North America and we’ll meet them where they live.
So as challenging as things have been, we have a lot of really exciting things to look forward to — especially our upcoming releases! First off, I’m excited to launch Legacy of the Sith, the latest expansion for Star Wars®: The Old Republic, on February 15. We’re on the doorstep of a new expansion that will see the players with more combat style choices, a new storyline that returns you to the underwater depths of Manaan and the ruined Sith fortress on the planet Elom, and so much more! It all starts in February, and we’ll have more updates throughout the year. We are extremely proud of having created a game that has been running successfully for ten years now.
And of course, we remain hard at work on the next iterations of Dragon Age and Mass Effect. I’m seeing some incredible work from both teams. If you’re curious about Mass Effect, I’d encourage you to take a look at the poster we released on N7 Day. If you look closely, there are a handful of hidden treats; by my count, there are at least five surprises, all of which point to an amazing future in the Mass Effect universe. As for Dragon Age, we have a veteran group of talented developers working on the next iteration of the franchise. We are focused on a single-player experience that is built on choices that matter.
When I took on the GM role, I talked about rebuilding our reputation, and that remains a huge priority. We are laser-focused on building back the trust of our fans and community, and we plan to do that by delivering the types of games that we are best known for and ensuring they are of the highest quality. Our mission is to “Create worlds of adventure, conflict, and companionship that inspire you to become the hero of your story.” We want the launch of our games to be seminal moments in the industry. We want each game to earn the kind of reaction we’ve seen with Mass Effect Legendary Edition. We feel that we have the right people, the right creative focus, and the support from EA to deliver on the promise.
One of my favorite quotes from 2021 comes from GameSpot’s Games of the Year roundup, and I think it illustrates that we’re moving in the right direction: “Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is a gargantuan reminder of just how good developer BioWare is when it’s firing on all cylinders.”
We can’t wait for you to see what we’ve been working on and look forward to sharing more in the future. Until then, thank you for being part of our story.
Wishing you all the best in the New Year,