Dragon Age And Mass Effect Studio Lays Off 50 Devs, Claims Games Are Unaffected [Update]…
BioWare announced on August 23 that it wouldn’t be showing off any updates for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf and the upcoming Mass Effect game at EA Play Live, much to the disappointment of fans waiting for a glimpse at the latest entries in the beloved RPG franchises. Alongside that came the announcement that the company will restructure itself in order to meet the needs of its upcoming titles, and fans quickly went from disappointed to concerned that this restructuring, which laid off 50 BioWare developers (including some who had been with the company since 2003’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), would affect the development of both games.
Although BioWare general manager Gary McKay wrote that the layoffs won’t affect the development of the aforementioned titles and were necessary to create “exceptional story-driven single-player experiences” in a blog post, fans were more troubled than comforted by his words. A large part of that concern stems from the fact that Dragon Age: Dreadwolf’s development has already dealt with delays and high profile departures, while the upcoming Mass Effect is still only in early development. To make matters worse, these firings come following a wave of layoffs back in June 2022, when BioWare outsourced the development of its Star Wars MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic to Broadsword studio.
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So, the August 23 news gave Mass Effect and Dragon Age fans quite a bit to worry about, which led them to voice their ongoing concerns on social media.
“I’ve been a pretty strong proponent of ‘let’s all stay calm, it’s alright, let’s not jump to doom’ for a lot of BioWare-related negative news over these past years. But this…Whatever it means, whatever it may or may not end up affecting with game development, at the end of the day this is deeply saddening,” Rather_curious_lass wrote in a reply to the news that Dragon Age writer Mary Kelly had been laid off on the r/dragonage subreddit. “On a personal level, it’s just really damn disheartening to see such talent and passion that helped make me and many others fall in love with the world, get fucking laid off.”
“Honestly, not sure what to make of it all. I was content to let them (BioWare) cook. But getting rid of senior staff with nothing said to suggest a release any time soon maybe it is an utter disaster,” Turinsday wrote in a separate r/dragonage thread. “Even if writing was done for Dreadwolf, you’d think someone of Kirby’s stature would be working on DLC or hopping over to Mass Effect, future DA concepts, etc. A Sad day.”
“Fifty people losing their jobs [and] no dates set for DA4, I hate to say it but I’m completely losing faith in BioWare and I feel like we’re never actually going to see this game or the next Mass Effect,” ShutUrBigBazoo wrote on Twitter. “You don’t let people go with big-name games in production.”
“That is not good news,” Indy_Power replied on Twitter. “You can spin it as restructuring, or meeting budget needs. We’ve seen layoffs within the gaming industry and how it has later led to studio closures. Nobody downsizes when they have two big projects.”
“Tell Gary McKay that Dragon Age and Mass Effect shouldn’t be named as such going forward if you are laying off the great individuals who helped put them together. You laid off the woman who wrote the damn Chant for crying out loud,” MrEverything__said on Twitter. “Wake up BioWare. This is disgraceful.”
Mass Effect and Dragon Age are both massive IPs with legions of dedicated fans—their sequels are almost guaranteed to earn BioWare tons of cash, so layoffs naturally raise eyebrows. Time will tell whether the “restructuring” will actually yield the results McKay claims it will or if it’ll be remembered as yet another string of unnecessary layoffs from a beloved video game studio. Neither sequel has a release date or window just yet.
The video game industry is still reeling from Epic Games’ September 28 announcement that it will lay off nearly 900 employees. If developers at the Fortnite money-printing factory aren’t safe, nobody is. In perhaps the worst-timed microtransaction ever, Fortnite’s “Share The Wealth” emote went back up for sale on the battle royale’s in-game shop later that day.
It didn’t take Fortnite news accounts like Guille_GAG long to discover the emote had returned to cap off the a day full of grim news. “Epic has brought back the Share the Wealth Emote just after firing 900 of their employees…,” they tweeted. “Epic Games is under fire for selling the ‘Share the Wealth’ Emote in today’s Item Shop rotation – just hours after 830 employees were laid off,” the FortniteBR Instagram account posted.
It appears the emote, which was added to the game earlier this year in Chapter 4: Season 3, was only on sale for a brief period before being removed. According to FortniteBR and others, the emote was removed when Epic took down the entire Daily Rotation tab from the store shortly after the emote went live.
A company spokesperson told Kotaku in an email that the “Share The Wealth” emote was pre-scheduled. “The emote was taken down when we realized the mistake roughly one hour after going live,” they wrote. Epic Games acknowledged the missing feature on Twitter and said it would return during the next item shop refresh.
“We’ve been spending way more money than we earn,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney wrote in an email to staff announcing the layoffs. It was a peculiar invocation of of the royal “we,” considering the executive then proceeded to list acquisitions, expansions, and other business initiatives, like growing Fortnite as a metaverse-inspired ecosystem for creators, that most of the people laid off probably had no say in.
It’s unclear what sort of salary Sweeney and other executives at the company draw. Epic remains a privately owned company, so it doesn’t have to disclose any of that information. Sweeney has pushed back again the concept of a wealth tax in the past, claiming that it would penalize people like him by forcing them to sell equity in their companies anytime they become more valuable. While the larger company remains a black box, we do know that Fortnite made $9 billion in its first two years, and Epic continues to rake in “billions of dollars a year in revenue from player purchases.”
The news around Epic’s layoffs renewed questions about how companies handle cost-cutting, and who feels the pain first when economic gambles don’t pay off. People often recall the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s symbolic pay cuts when his companies’ products would underperform, like the 3DS and Wii U. Some other gaming CEOs have undergone similar compensation cuts in recent years, including Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Activision. Relative to the millions earned in company stock, however, the salary haircuts often seem like a pittance in comparison.
“The reality of being laid off by Epic while being treated for skin cancer has hit me and woken me from a not sound sleep and I don’t think there are words for how furious I am at the company, the leadership, their greed…all of it.” one former Epic employee tweeted overnight. In the meantime, Epic is still burning money on things like Epic Games Store, its Steam competitor, showering players with free games. The latest freebie is the action RPG Soulstice, which is normally listed at $40.
“Saying goodbye to people who have helped build Epic is a terrible experience for all,” Sweeney wrote in his email to staff. “The consolation is that we’re adequately funded to support laid off employees: we’re offering a severance package that includes six months base pay and in the US/Canada/Brazil six months of Epic-paid healthcare.”