Why the Broadsword Move Could Be Good for SWTOR and Bad for Bioware

As a follow-up to my previous post, I wanted to talk a bit more about how the move to Broadsword could be a good thing for SWTOR. To be clear, we haven't had any more official information, and I think that there are a lot of questions to which we won't really get reliable answers until the deal has actually gone through and we see what happens in practice. However, it seems that the more common public narrative has been primarily negative, focusing on the possibility of the game going into maintenance mode, and I've seen some people express genuine confusion about how SWTOR leaving Bioware could be anything but a bad thing.

Especially when reading reports on larger gaming sites, the general vibe behind the narrative seems to be the same old hostility towards SWTOR. Oh look, there's that failed WoW killer failing again. Now it's doing so badly that EA doesn't even want it taking up any of Bioware's precious time anymore, so they're sending it out to pasture.

The thing that few people seem to consider is: What has Bioware done lately, other than maintain SWTOR? The last time they released a new game was in early 2019, when they released Anthem, and we all know how that turned out. (Though fun fact: while researching this, I found out that the game is actually still playable. From the way that Anthem's failure was reported on, I thought the servers had been fully shut down back in 2021.) Since then there's been nothing, and while there's been much talk about new Dragon Age and Mass Effect games being in development, there isn't a release date for either yet. In the meantime, Respawn Entertainment (another EA studio) shipped both Jedi: Fallen Order and its sequel Jedi: Survivor...

Before Anthem, Bioware's last game was Mass Effect: Andromeda, which released to rather mixed reviews and sold below expectations. The last time they actually released a game that was an unequivocal success was Dragon Age: Inquisition back in 2014, almost a decade ago. Since then there've been multiple exposés about what a mess they've been making of the development of their more recent titles.

How can a triple-A studio keep going for so long with so little output? Something tells me it's not from the sales of Garrus body pillows. It couldn't have anything to do with the underappreciated live-service game they are also running and which provides a continuous revenue stream while the people supposedly making the big, important titles faff around indecisively, could it?

EA's official statement in response to the IGN article said that "BioWare will focus its resources on single-player games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect" and most people seemed to read that as SWTOR having been an annoying distraction for the studio. There's another way to read it though, and that is as EA putting its foot down that if Bioware wants to be a single-player game studio, they need to actually make some single-player games, not just dither for years while relying on SWTOR to balance their books.

In that version, EA is actually doing SWTOR a favour of sorts by moving it to another studio that actually knows and cares about MMOs, whether that's intentional or not. And interestingly, former SWTOR devs have been popping up on Twitter to say pretty much that. Damion Schubert, who was lead designer for the game during its early years, asserts that it still makes good money, and that EA just isn't that interested in investing in it because their focus is on mega-titles like FIFA, but that it could absolutely thrive under a smaller studio. He also immediately stated that this was "bad news for Bioware".

Chris Schmidt, who worked on SWTOR for over a decade, tweeted a lengthy thread in which he also talks about how unappreciated SWTOR has been as a property on Bioware's end, despite of bringing in "mountains of income" that served to build up other franchises. So he sees the move to Broadsword as an opportunity for the SWTOR team (which was already quite removed from the rest of Bioware as it was) to move on to an environment where their work will be understood and appreciated, giving the game a chance to shine and presumably also reap the rewards for good work instead of simply having them rolled into the reporting for a bigger studio that isn't actually doing so well.

Now, all of this is coming from ex-devs - the current ones might feel differently for all we know, and even if they don't, a lot of things would have to go right in a very specific way for things to work out as Damion and Chris propose. So I'm not saying this is definitely or even likely to happen - but it is currently one of many possibilities, and it's worth noting. Especially as I do tend to lend a bit more weight to the words of actual devs who worked on the game than to those of random internet pundits who think that this must be the end for SWTOR just because they didn't like the last expansion.

Interestingly, after I finished the first draft of this post, Keith took to the forums a second time to follow-up on his previous post by saying: "Whoa whoa everyone... I was hoping me telling you about the upcoming releases would help you understand this is a new beginning, not the end." That wording indicates to me that he views this as a positive development as well (though I guess the proof will be in the pudding in terms of whether he's one of the ones to make the transition himself).

Naturally, as long-time fan of the game I prefer to be optimistic as well, but I hope that this post shows that this view doesn't come entirely out of thin air. We all have to wait to see what actually happens, and there's no benefit in spending the next few months dooming. In the meantime, we've got 7.3 to look forward to next week (which, incidentally, means that my prediction of a mid-June release was spot on) and I'm excited to play it (especially as I have two days off right after the day of the patch, which wasn't planned at all but should work out extra nicely).


  1. Here's hoping for the best. That said, I'm here, as well, until the servers shut down. I still play Secret World Legends and that is definitely in maintenance mode (only the season events get toggled on and off now) so I know I'll continue to play my characters in Swtor no matter what.

    I also wish Bioware well, too. I'd love to see more great single-player games from them. The Mass Effect series and the original Neverwinter Nights game are favorites. It would be cool to have more games that drew me in as those did.

    1. Yeah - I know I'm kind of hard on them in this post, considering it sounds like they haven't been treating SWTOR too well and that it's undeniable that they haven't been doing great in terms of output for a while, but if it wasn't for the original Dragon Age I probably wouldn't be posting this here right now! So I do hope they can get their act together.

    2. You're fine. I think your posts are all reasonable and measured ones about what we do know and what we can't know. A bit of sanity in a typical internet-outrage scenario. (I know being the optimistic side right now is being wishful, but I'd rather be too far on the positive than wallow in the negative as so many others want to do. :))

  2. Hopefully this move will allow Bioware to bring back classics like Jade Empire and KOTOR 3.

    My concerns regarding 7.3 and 7.4 is that they are being made by a team that is leaving, that may be losing their jobs. 7.0 was made by a team that was leaving, and it launched with more bugs than we were accustomed to, and we were accustomed to a bunch.

    7.1 was made by the new team, and it was well received, besides a few like Mark Biggs over the end of Ranked. But most of us are actually having way more fun with arenas these days than we did before when they were only played in ranked. Which is silly, since it is the same exact content you do as a lvl 10 Player trying to get your accessories. Mark Biggs was rather foolish in that sense.

    But that's besides the topic. If 7.3 and 7.4 are made poorly, that would actually kill the community more than the move to Broadsword.

    In my opinion, all is counting on 7.3 and 7.4.

    On another note, before any of this news came out, I already felt the story of SWTOR was coming to a close. Darth Malgus himself has forseen the end of our era. We know there is a dark age to come after SWTOR.

    I felt that age is coming, story wise and that maybe The Dawn of The Jedi hype would bring about a new Star Wars MMO as SWTOR joined SWG on independent servers. But there's no word of a new MMO.

    None of us know the future for sure. So all hangs on 7.3 and 7.4.

    1. It really does. Because if those minor expansions come poorly, once SWTOR is fully under Broadsword, it will arrive without the playerbase.

      If only Star Wars fans weren't so toxic or brainwashed by clickbait YouTubers or however you wish to call the dark side of SW fandom, maybe perhaps we could have a line to ask Kathleen Kennedy to lend a hand in it's marketing, similar to how WoW is still marketed with celebrities and TV commercials.

      Never understood why SWTOR never got TV commercials with actors from the Star Wars movies as they came out. Rogue One, the Sequels, Solo, The Mandalorian, Kenobi, Book of Boba, Rebels, Resistance, Bad Batch, Adventures and Visions.

      SWTOR still looks amazing. It looks prettier than it did, just a year ago.

      But how can the SW fandom rally behind SWTOR if the minds behind SW themselves can't come together for marketing.

      We still see Lucasfilm stamped in the end credits.

      Lucasfilm, if you're reading this, here is the battlefield where the Jedi and Troopers, the Sith, imperial agents and Mandalorians themselves need you. Don't leave us in this battlefield to rot. Join the fight.

    2. Sincerely, the frontlines.

  3. The more I think about it - and I've been thinking about it quite a bit - the more I lean towards your point of view. Pallais made the point in a comment on my post that 40 devs is far too many for maintenance mode. What would they even do? If that many really are staying on, then there are only two possible reasons: ongoing development for SWTOR or reassignment to one of Broadsword's other properties - which, since those are two even older mmorpgs with much smaller niche audiences, seems extremely unlikely. Or I guess Broadsword could be developing some new, secret game but that seems even less likely.

    I don't know how technically difficult a game SWTOR is to develop for but from the outside it doesn't look like it would necessarily be harder than the average mmorpg. If so, forty devs seems like a decent number for a live service game to get regular updates and small expansions. I know GW2 uses way more than that but they also seem to be radically inefficient. Both the EQ titles manage to pump out plenty of content with fewer devs each than SWTOR is going to have. (Probably. I don't have the exact numbers but I'm pretty sure there aren't 40 people working on EQII...)

    Of course, the content does get a bit formulaic when you have the same smallish team producing it year in, year out, but honestly, for older mmorpgs, following a formula isn't usually a problem. Players tend to prefer it. It's when they have to deal with new ideas they get upset. Anyway, I'd be cautiously optimistic at this stage, with the limited information we have. We really need to know a lot more, though, before we can come to any conclusions.

    1. About that. I don't know if it's true, I have not confirmed it. But Ivano 1337 on Youtube was saying SWTOR currently has 70-80 staff on the game. And I don't know if what Pallais is saying is true, about there being 40 on staff when SWTOR is under Broadsword. But if they're both right, then half of the staff is being cut off.

      I honestly have no idea where those two got their numbers. And I currently don't know how to confirm any of that.

      We also don't know if Broadsword is moving more staff to SWTOR or hiring new people or not.

      I do know marketing though. I know most of the most successful corporate conglomerates in history have used about 80% of their revenue towards marketing. Without proper marketing there is little future, even if the developer staff is truly dedicated.

    2. My staffing numbers are coming from the original IGN article: "Currently, roughly 70-80 people are part of the core development team of The Old Republic, more than half of whom are expected to move to Broadsword".

      As far as marketing goes, Swtor (and Broadsword's other two games) have had very little marketing over the years. It's more been word of mouth or an article, now and then. Actually seeing Disney acknowledge and display Old Republic items was and is a big deal.

    3. Fun fact: In my post about Star Wars Insider last year I bemoaned that SWTOR wasn't even listed on starwars.com's games and apps page. I just looked at it again and now it's there!


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