The industry was stunned today to read the announcement that BioWare co-founders Drs. Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk are actually leaving BioWare... and the entire games industry. The duo's studio has produced some of the most memorable role-playing games of the last couple decades, and while EA will clearly miss the pair's leadership, how serious will the impact be for the publisher? Analysts that GamesIndustry International spoke with appeared to have mixed feelings on the subject.
"Yes, it's a blow to EA," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told us. "The company hasn't created many hugely successful new IPs outside of what we've seen from BioWare and DICE, with Dead Space probably the sole exception. These two were instrumental in creating Mass Effect, Dragon Age and SWTOR, and I think that talent like theirs is hard to find."
He added, "I hope that they end up like the Eagles, who have retired 15 times in the last 30 years. They are really good, and I think that they created a lot of enjoyment for a whole bunch of people."
Colin Sebastian of RW Baird agrees that it's tough for EA to swallow but he also believes that the publisher should be able to weather the storm. "It's clearly a loss to EA for these highly respected leaders to retire, but at the same time, BioWare is a large organization now and under the control of EA," he remarked. "As such, don't expect any noticeable impact on projects near-term. That said, EA will need to be proactive in keeping developers happy at BioWare so they resist any temptation to follow Ray and Greg out the door."
"I am sure they wouldn't have entered into retirement if they felt the BioWare name and quality standards were at risk"
Jesse Divnich of EEDAR doesn't see the departures really affecting EA at all. The fact is that BioWare and EA have been expecting this and have been doing their best to get ready.
"It's a sad day when inspirational pillars of our industry have lost the passion to make games. Both Ray and Greg have contributed more than their fair share to how our industry is shaped today. Our industry thrives on creative talent, but that same talent is difficult to retain," began Divnich. He continued, "There will be little to no impact on Electronic Arts. I am more than sure that proper succession planning was in place and we are unlikely to see any major impact on BioWare titles. Ray and Greg, more than anything else, were thought proving leaders. I am sure they wouldn't have entered into retirement if they felt the BioWare name and quality standards were at risk."
Sterne Agee's Arvind Bhatia shares the sentiment: "My sense is EA has been preparing for this since April of this year and already has the new leadership in place at BioWare. The transition has apparently been quite amicable. BioWare does have 3 titles in the pipeline-Dragon Age 3, the next Mass Effect and an unannounced IP so overall, I think EA will be fine. Clearly, the co-founders of BioWare are seeking to do other things outside of the games industry so I don't think this is a reflection on EA."
Billy Pidgeon of M2 Research sees little reason for concern. Investors need not worry because the roles Drs. Muzyka and Zeschuk were serving in had already changed. Pidgeon believes that the co-founders were losing creative control of their projects.
"They were likely losing creative control over projects because they were spending more time working with EA leadership"
"Drs. Muzyka and Zeschuk have contributed much to the industry. BioWare is one of the world's finest developers because Ray and Greg put together the teams to create titles such as Baldur's Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect. After EA acquired BioWare, Muzyka and Zeschuk initially gained more leverage but this dissipated quickly as they moved from leading a major developer to heading up one of several major developers as part of EA. They were likely losing creative control over projects because they were spending more time working with EA leadership," Pidgeon explained.
"Investors might be concerned because BioWare's founders are leaving, but they shouldn't be," he stressed. "I think BioWare will continue to develop top quality games for EA going forward. It's far more critical that EA can transition quickly toward covering platforms, genres and regions with higher growth than traditional high end console and PC games. EA is moving aggressively in this direction, and that's a good thing."
EA's stock finished the day relatively unscathed by the news, down just 21 cents to $14.00.