By now, you’ve probably heard about the anonymous BioWare employee rumor circulating the Internet yesterday. We saw it but I wanted to dig up some more information before bringing it to you. As a journalist, I’m not one for spreading rumors with no basis to the source.
This article on Bettor.com claimed that an anonymous BioWare employee blamed the fans for the current state of SWTOR. The author, Gordon Miles says:
A Bioware Austin employee has lashed out at fans regarding the state of the recently launched massively multiplayer online (MMO) Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) according to GamerTechTv.
SWTOR or ‘Tortanic’ is being called one of the biggest blunders of this generation as Electronic Arts (EA) has thrown away over $500 million of development and marketing funds for the project and will now have to make it free to play because of the rapidly decreasing player count.
The failure of the MMO has caused a significant drop in EA’s share price and has lead to major layoffs at Bioware Austin. The Bioware employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, has stated that fans are in part responsible for how the MMO turned out.
“EA blames us and to some extent they’re right to. But it was fan feedback from the day we opened the forums that encouraged us to design it for the fans the way it is and that included making it more like Kotor then an MMO like Wow,” he stated mentioning that gamers actually wanted SWTOR to be more like Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), a single player role playing game by Bioware before it was acquired by EA, rather than World of Warcraft (WoW).
Fans have called him out and claim that Bioware is just pointing fingers for their own failure as they opened the official forums on September 12, 2011 where as the game came out three months later on December 20, 2011. It is hard to believe that three months worth of fan feedback could influence the game that was in development since 2006.
Yet one thing that jumped out to the writer in me immediately was no source for this quote. An “anonymous” employee just doesn’t cut it. I could make up any quote I feel like and say an “anonymous employee” said so. SWTOR game update 1.4 is going to introduce pink fluffy unicorn mounts, according to an anonymous BioWare Austin employee. (Don’t hold your breath waiting on that one).
So I put on my sleuth hat and became Detective Lisa for a bit and was able to track this rumor down to its origin.
Mr. Miles said “GamerTV” was the source of this quote but since he didn’t link it, I had to go look it up. He’s referring to this story which says this is the reason the game may be looking at a Free to Play model coming up soon.
Now that story linked to a Massively story that covered the recent layoffs at BioWare Austin. Are you dizzy yet? In the comment section of this Massively story, there was the following comment:
I know many won’t believe me. but, I work at Bioware. best part for me is coming here to read fans replies. I won’t tell you much and I don’t care if you believe me. So here is “what’s” going on were I work.
If you havent noticed the interviews we had given sometime back had been removed. mainly, the interviews that gave it “away” that we are looking at adding F2P model. we are indeed adding free to play to the game. now the best part for me is anonymity I have that allows me to be open.
We will have mainly have a “fluff” shop for the new direction with F2P. but much of the legacy system will have the option to purchase those “perk’s” (the main reason credit cost are high to slow progression until we patch F2P) as well many parts of the game will have new content that requires you purchase are type of “coinage” from the cash shop so you can buy the access to “special” content/quest. now new companions will also be in the shop. but due to us getting down sized and the staff changes a small team is working on these F2P changes.
I don’t want anyone to be upset by this. but many of these changes had been in the “planning stages” for many months since the sharp drop in subscribers. many parts of the game will cost money to access. for example you can unlock the new “cathar” race in your legacy. but buying the unlock, it will cost 10$ US
So we are all pretty upset here. we know Daniel and Jimmy many more are next round of layoffs. EA blames us and to some extent they’re right to. but it was fan feedback from the day we opened the forums that encouraged us to design it for the fans the way it is and that included making it more like Kotor then an MMO like Wow. Also from what I have heard in the halls, Starwars Galaxies was shut down due to the fact are talks with LA,EA suits ecouraged the new guy at LA to increase the licensing fee at renewal time. it was a move to remove any direct competiton to TOR.
Sorry guys gotta go but be good to each other.
Mmmkkkkkayyy… right from the start, a lot of readers called it bogus. But as more and more fan sites, blogs and news sites started to pick up on the story, some players began to debate over whether or not this was an actual BioWare employee and if there was any truth to the comment.
Here’s where it gets tricky… we know that the Internet, by definition, breeds trolls. We also know that with the many recent layoffs at BioWare Austin, there could be some disgruntled former employees who want to make the whole company and the game look bad. There are any number of possibilities when it comes to this ‘anonymous poster’ so we can speculate all day long but we won’t really know the truth unless the poster decides to come forward and no longer be anonymous. All we really know for sure is the information we get from personal experience and from official interviews.
Anyone can post a story on the Internet; this doesn’t make it true.
What We Know is True
This brings us to a valid source with CNBC.com’s interview with John Riccitiello, CEO of EA. One of the most interesting quotes from this interview:
We had indicated in the last earnings call which was eleven weeks ago, that there was some softness inStar Wars. Our conclusion was that we had a great product in Star Wars, but that the subscription model in a world of free-to-play was challenging, which is why we announced in July the first 15 levels [that] are free-to-play.
What’s exciting about content as great as the Star Wars content is when we expose it to people, they really want it. And so, we’ve begun to work with different models to bring more users into the game.
I don’t think it’s a concern for now.
So there you have it folks. It must be a slow SWTOR news week when the rumors take over. We don’t really know any more or less than we did before this rumor began.
Former BioWare employee Stephen Reid had something to say about the whole thing on Twitter:
— Stephen Reid (@Rockjaw) July 23, 2012