Electronic Arts is preparing to move Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare’s long-running MMORPG, to outside studio Broadsword Online Games, according to a new report by IGN. The deal would see just over half of the game’s development team move with it while the rest look for new jobs as BioWare pivots to focusing exclusively on upcoming single-player games like Dragon Age: Dreadwolf and Mass Effect 4.
Update 6/27/2023 12:41 p.m. ET: BioWare has confirmed IGN’s report, announcing on its blog that Old Republic will still be published by EA but development will move to an outside studio along with some of the existing team. Not all of them, however. BioWare also confirmed that some BioWare Austin developers will be laid off as part of the restructuring.
“No big change comes without challenges,” BioWare General Manager Gary McKay wrote. “Among them is the fact that most of the current team will be invited to accompany the game on its move to Broadsword, though unfortunately not every role will make the move. We are of course doing everything we can to support the affected team members, who have an opportunity to find new roles within EA.”
As we look toward the future, BioWare is focused on being a leader in developing immersive, emotionally charged, single-player games, with teams primarily in Austin and Edmonton. This means a renewed focus on our two key franchises: Dragon Age™ and Mass Effect™. For Dragon Age, we continue to build, polish, and tune an exceptional experience we know our fans will love. We can’t wait to share more on this soon. For Mass Effect, we continue pre-production with a core team of veteran storytellers who are bringing the deep franchise history forward in a spectacular new way.
Original story follows.
Sources tell IGN that 70-80 people are currently part of the core development team on Old Republic, and the proposed deal would see about half of them transition to Broadsword alongside the game. The other half would reportedly have to look for other positions within EA, or potentially be laid off, leaving the future of BioWare Austin seemingly in question. The studio adopted remote work options for employees in early 2022
“Almost 12 years after launch, Star Wars: The Old Republic remains a success and continues to grow its dedicated and passionate community,” a spokesperson for EA told Kotaku in an email. “We’re so proud of the work the team has done, and the future of the game and the community continues to be very bright. We’re evaluating how we give the game and the team the best opportunity to grow and evolve, which includes conversations with Broadsword, a boutique studio that specializes in delivering online, community-driven experiences.”
Star Wars: The Old Republic launched as a competitor to Blizzard’s massively popular MMO World of WarCraft back in 2011. It was praised for its deep worldbuilding and interesting storytelling in the Star Wars universe, but struggled to keep players engaged around its end game. Old Republic eventually went free-to-play a year later, and has continued receiving additional content ever since. Its most recent expansion pack, Legacy of the Sith, arrived just last year and was celebrated as a 10-year anniversary victory lap for the aging PC game.
Broadsword, where it now appears to be headed, is currently home to the MMOs Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot. It was started in 2014 by Mythic Entertainment co-founder Rob Denton, previously a VP at EA overseeing the BioWare publishing label at the time of Old Republic’s original release.
In the years since, BioWare Austin had maintained the MMO while also helping BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Montreal with downloadable content for Dragon Age: Inquisition and later on co-developing Mass Effect Andromeda. It was also in a fraught relationship while working on Anthem with BioWare Edmonton, as previously reported by Kotaku. Plans for a 2.0 overhaul following the live service game’s disastrous launch were ultimately abandoned, and BioWare has appeared to be focused on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf and the next Mass Effect ever since.
“Our goal is to do what is best for [Star Wars: The Old Republic] and its players,” EA said.