Earlier today, EA sent out an update regarding the development of the unnamed Star Wars title. The title, codenamed Ragtag, has long been rumored to have internal development troubles, and the announcement all but confirms those rumors. Patrick Söderlund, EA Worldwide's executive vice president, penned the public message that attempted to clarify the company's decision to close Visceral Games, one of their most well-known subsidiary studios:
Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.
This move leads to a few other changes:
A development team from across EA Worldwide Studios will take over development of this game, led by a team from EA Vancouver that has already been working on the project. Our Visceral studio will be ramping down and closing, and we’re in the midst of shifting as many of the team as possible to other projects and teams at EA.
Lastly, while we had originally expected this game to launch late in our fiscal year 2019, we’re now looking at a new timeframe that we will announce in the future.
This move seems to be coming from EA in an attempt to move the game away from being a linear, story-focused experience and toward a more long-term investment. Essentially, this is EA stepping in to make sure that project Ragtag can continue generating money post-launch, probably through microtransactions and/or DLC, both of which have become core parts of their business strategy in recent years. I suspect that it will also be shifting focus of the title from a linear, single-player story toward a multiplayer competitive title that can be milked for money via DLC and microtransactions for years after release.
Kotaku was able to get some further clarification on Visceral's closure. Söderlund responded to their questions by saying that the EA Vancouver team that was already attached to the project would take the lead along with a team taken from across EA Worldwide Studios. EA executive producer Steve Anthony will lead the entire effort and much of the work done by Visceral will be used in the final game such as assets that have already been built.
Amy Hennig, known for her work directing Uncharted 1-4, had been helming Visceral's Ragtag project. Her fate seems to be uncertain, although an EA spokesperson stated that, "We are in discussions with Amy about her next move." EA has said that they are trying to move as many devs as possible to other parts of EA, but many will be finding themselves without a job. Other studios across the industry, such as God of War developer Sony Santa Monica and 2K Games, have expressed their sympathy for the people affected and opened their doors to applicants who might not make it through the dissolution of Visceral.