SWTOR to Move from Bioware to Broadsword?!

Late last night I was presented with the stunning news that EA is planning to move development of Star Wars: The Old Republic from Bioware to Broadsword Online. At the time it still seemed like an unconfirmed rumour, but the IGN article has since been updated with an official statement from EA, and Keith Kanneg has acknowledged it on the SWTOR forums, though he also added that they're not in a position to answer any questions at the moment.

Needless to say, this was pretty shocking news to the community, though it's clear as mud what this change will actually mean for SWTOR's future.

On the one hand, Broadsword was formed specifically to maintain Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot, two MMOs that are more than twice SWTOR's age, and moving to a studio that is actually focused on the MMO business could be a good thing for SWTOR, as opposed to it always being the unloved step-child at Bioware. It's well known that the dev team was repeatedly kneecapped there when resources were pulled off the game to help work on one of Bioware's proprietary IPs instead (*COUGH*Anthem*COUGH*). Most of the current team is supposed to make the move, and Broadsword founder Rob Denton apparently worked on SWTOR in its early days.

On the other hand, saying that "more than half" of the core development team is meant to move to Broadsword is a nice way of saying that they're planning to cut the development team by almost half, and we don't really know how good Broadsword are at their job. Even if they are invested and passionate, UO and DAoC are very different games from SWTOR, with its distinctively Bioware-flavoured focus on voiced story content and companions.

The first thing I did when I heard this news was try to find out just how much development UO and DAoC are getting under Broadsword, and what I found was some very mixed messaging. For example this PC Gamer article from last year happily proclaims that "Ultima Online is one of the oldest PC games still being updated today, and it's a fantastic thing to behold even if you aren't an invested player yourself" and Bree from MassivelyOP even claimed in this comment section that UO is still getting expansions. However, googling for "Ultima Online expansions" surfaces nothing since 2015's "Time of Legends", and their patch notes from the last few years all seem to be about bug fixes and small updates to seasonal events (what I'd call maintenance mode). Things look even worse for DAoC, whose last official set of patch notes was posted in October 2021 (though I don't know whether that really means that nothing has been done or whether they've just been slack with updating their website).

Then again, apparently Broadsword is currently really small, with only about a dozen developers working on both games combined, while SWTOR is meant to retain 40+ - surely they'll still be able to do more than just maintenance mode with that? In fact, if you look at it like that, Broadsword quintupling its head count with SWTOR's acquisition would mean that the SWTOR team is effectively taking them over in terms of everyday realities, not the other way round, with the game basically becoming their new flagship title overnight, massively overshadowing the older games.

Ultimately we've got a lot of questions and no real answers. I doubt that even the SWTOR team can really tell what's going to happen right now, because the ones making the decisions at the top always think that they're doing the right thing, without necessarily having any clue about the realities on the ground. All that remains is for us to wait and see, and to wish the SWTOR team good luck with the transition.

Some links on the subject:


  1. This is much worse than most commentators seem to realize becuase Broadsword is a pretty obscure studio. I followed them pretty closely for a while because they maintain DAoC, which I was into enough to start a blog with tutorials to help new players around 2018. As far as I can tell, the purpose of the studio is keep games going in maintenance mode.

    However in the case of DAoC they haven't even done that. They have actively made the game worse over time, pulling entire swaths of content from the game with vague promises to repurpose the assets for somethin new and better that never materialized. Compared to 2018, the PvE content in the game has been reduced by roughly 50%. Entire zones, quest lines and systems cut from the game completely . . .even on the pure PvE server. They also didn't know their own game well enough to realize that the changes broke the signature quest lines for some classes, because a key step took place in one of the zones that they gutted..

    The only up side I see is that with the majority of the studio being former Bioware devs, the folks currently running things won't have much input into what happens with SWTOR after the change.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Yeebo. I've been finding it hard to find reliable information about the studio because people on reddit are naturally salty and veering towards the negative about everything.

      I would indeed hope that with the current devs essentially "taking over" Broadsword in terms of raw numbers, they shouldn't run into any issues like that.

    2. I was taken aback by the positivity in the MOP thread about this (Especially since MOP commenters are so rarely positive about anything) but I eventually put it down to a combination of ignorance (Few people commenting will be regular players of either UO or DAOC.) and that supremely irritating habit of MOP commenters to worship anything that touches the hem of certain shibboleths, the greatest of which is SWG but whose minor handmaidens are indeed UO and DAOC.

      As for UO gettingexpansions, the problem there is the weasel word itself. I seem to remember doing a whole post once on what constitutes an "expansion" for an mmorpg and it's certainly true that some developers use the term for things I'd call "patches" - and get away with it.

      Anyway, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens - the idea of a subdivision with a dozen employees being basically assigned another forty by corporate could go any number of ways. For example, I wonder how siloed SW:TOR wil be at Broadsword? Is it going to be a company within a company or could some of those transferring devs potential end up working on other projects?

      I can't see it any way as a positive move unless you believe the alternative was the game closing down.

    3. I might make a whole other post about this, but the reason some ex-SWTOR devs in particular have commented on this positively seems to be that at Bioware, SWTOR was apparently severely unloved as a property, while its revenue served as a way to pay the bills so the "main" development team could faff around for years not shipping anything. (It's worth remembering that Bioware hasn't released a new game since 2019, and that was Anthem...)

      They seem to see this primarily as a way for the SWTOR team to gain independence and have the game stand on its own two feet, while under the wings of an organisation that actually understands and values MMOs.

      We don't know whether it will work out that way, but I definitely understand the logic.

    4. I really sincerely hope it goes that way.

  2. I'm optimistic. While the Broadsword team will make mistakes (just every team makes mistakes) the cash flow Swtor brings in -- greater than anything else Broadsword has now -- means Broadsword has a solid incentive to keep making content to sustain Swtor. It may be slower than what Bioware does now, but Bioware hasn't been exactly dropping content at a high speed either.

    All this said, Swtor has a better chance now to still be around at its 20th anniversary than it had being the unloved milk cow of Bioware.

    1. Ultimately it all depends on a lot of factors we know nothing about and might never find anything out about either, such as how exactly the decision-making process is structured at Bioware right now and what it would look like at Broadsword. If they end up being subject to a boss who just wants to cut costs, things could be bad. If it ends up being mostly the old team with Keith being able to call the shots himself, it could be an improvement. This is why we just have to wait and see.

    2. When I talk about being optimistic, I'm talking about the short and medium term. (Long term is always a "who knows?" situation.) Swtor will be bringing in a huge stream of money (in Broadsword terms) and the Swtor team will likely be double the size of the other teams combined. I've read that the entire Ultima Online team is just six people. Even if the DAoC team is twice the size of the UO team, the Swtor team will be bigger than both teams combined. That's a center of business gravity that will have an effect one way or another.

      It was sad to read about the DAoC changes, but I wonder if it (and UO) just don't have the player base to support major updates these days. I could see cutting things to make the support costs sustainable when the choice would be to otherwise shutdown an MMO. (Given Swtor has a healthy cartel shop I don't see that being an issue, at the moment.)


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