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BioWare sometimes “bet the company” when making business decisions, says Zeschuk

Saturday, 12th February 2011 14:14 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Greg Zeschuk said during a talk at DICE this week that he and BioWare’s other co-founder, Ray Muzyka, had to make large business bets in order for the company to grow.

According to Zeschuk, BioWare had to do this so the company could become the major player in the industry it is today, and he suggests other firms take some risks as well.

“Stay entrepreneurial,” he said. “Obviously in the past that’s where we came from. We started our own company and it grew to where it is today. We’ve always been conscious of trying to strive for opportunities and growth.

“You have to be willing to take risks. Certainly on an entrepreneurial basis there were times when we bet the company. Over the years we paid for the entire Neverwinter Nights game ourselves. If it didn’t work we probably would have crashed and burned, we came very, very close.

“We actually bet the company when we joined Elevation Partners and when we joined EA. These are all calculated bets that we made to try and get us to be more successful.

“There were points when we thought we have to do this, to take action and make that bet. You’ve got to be aggressive. Today’s a time of great disruption but it’s also a time to make opportunity.”

Zeschuk and Muzyka were both inducted into the AIAS Interactive Entertainment Hall of Fame this week, while Mass Effect 2 took home a Game of the Year Award at the ceremony as well as RPG of the Year, and Best Story.

The next game on slate for BioWare is Dragon Age 2,which was just announced as going gold.

Thanks, GI.biz.

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16 Comments

  1. TheWulf

    Interestingly I can’t think of a single, dangerous business decision they made, barring perhaps the interface of Dragon Age. The gameplay of Dragon Age wasn’t a risk though, it was World of Warcraft tank & spank through and through, the same seems to be true of The Old Republic.

    I’d always considered Bioware to be an exceedingly safe company, to be honest. They aren’t even as brave as Obsidian, for example. Obsidian keeps pushing their way into my liking by doing things like at least trying to do gay relationships properly. Sure, Mass Effect had lesbian characters, but that’s not actually a risk in today’s society. That’s just the way things are, unfortunately (and I can tell you that that’s the case being acutely acquainted with this dilemma as a gay person). So considering that homophobia seems to only be directed at men, even that was a safe choice.

    I’m actually wracking my brain now trying to think of things that Bioware did that could honestly be considered so original they’d be risky. I keep thinking I’ve got something, but then I remember that no, that was Troika, or Black Isle Studios, or Interplay, or indeed, Obsidian. In fact, the reason that Bioware are such a huge financial success is because safe makes one money. Cast the net exclusively to the largest demographic and all that…

    If I might segue into another topic for a moment, I have the same issues with Bethesda if I’m going to be honest. Currently they’re putting together a game about a perfect, Caucasian (if Nordic, but then vikings are cool to almost everyone) hero who runs around killing dragons. You don’t get more safe than that. Now if the hero were disabled or of a minority ethnicity, and they were defending the dragons from some evil empire or something, they’d probably get less money, they’d get shouted at a lot by their now alienated primary demographic, but at least Bethesda would’ve done something a bit interesting. Yeah?

    But no.

    (Personally I’d love to see a game featuring a character that’s disabled in some way, so that gamers can learn to have an empathy for such difficulties.)

    Where was I?

    Oh yes. Bioware. I really can’t think of anything they’ve done at any point that’s remotely unsafe. So I’m baffled by this. I’m just wondering if they’re considering their psychotic golem in Dragon Age to be a risk or something, as it might have offended some animal lovers with its desire to kill birds, and they might’ve lost a few thousand dollars over that one. Oh noes!

    Sorry Bioware, you’re as safe as a safe developer gets. In a safety blanket, even.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. AHA-Lambda

    “he suggests other firms take some risks as well.”

    I cant tell if he means creative risks or business risks there but from a business pov that sends a great message to companies these days, bet it all and potentially lose it -_-

    from a creative pov then yea bioware do seem to be dumbing down alot these days so pot kettle black much? =/

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Stephany Nunneley

    I don’t think he means “bet the farm” but take more constructive risks like they did.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. AHA-Lambda

    ah ok, that makes abit more sense then =)

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Doz12

    @1 i think you’ve confused creative risk and the financial risk that the article is about. The article is more getting about descions that have made bioware so big such as teaming up with EA and how they’re funded.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Hunam

    I don’t think it was much of a risk with them burning Pandemic so they could join EA.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Doz12

    @6 could of been what might have happened if inifity ward had joined a different publisher other than activision?? maybe they might still be around with their modern combat game?

    #7 4 years ago
  8. TheWulf

    @5

    Creative risk and financial risk are often the same thing, this is just semantics. Can you give me an example of when Bioware put themselves into any real financial risk? I can’t recall an instance of where Bioware actually went into debt or did something particularly crazy that might have cost them money instead of making it.

    Every decision I’ve ever seen them make is a safe one. This includes financial decisions, too. I can’t at any point ever recall a story where Bioware has said that they were struggling. To me this sounds like hot air. Again I’ll say that in every respect, Bioware is the one of the most play-it-safe developers I’ve ever seen. This runs throughout their mindset.

    Some developers will go into financial debt and do something crazy for the love of whatever it is they’re doing, but not Bioware. Bioware has never actually found themselves in trouble because of a move they wanted to make. They’ve only ever made moves that they’ve confirmed to be profitable ones before making them.

    When I think of a risk-taker, I don’t think of Bioware. I’d even think of EA before thinking of Bioware when it comes to risk-taking.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. TheWulf

    RE Above.

    What I’m getting at is that in a creative field, many of the risks you’ll get into are to do with that field. So the lines of creative and financial risks often blur to the point where it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. They’re all about making money by making games.

    Some developers do that in risky ways, others do it in exceedingly safe ways, Bioware is firmly of the latter variety.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Phoenixblight

    Video games are a commercial entity their entire goal is to make as much as possible and thats especially true for Bioware or whoever is with a publisher. Video games cost a lot of money and they need to make a profit.

    Has their been any game that was successful that took a risk? Last I can think of Mortal Kombat when it first came out.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Hunam

    Demon’s Souls was a big risk for everyone involved. That did very well. So it does happen.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Phoenixblight

    @11

    How was that a risk? Making the game so difficult that you get your ass handed to you quite frequently. If that was such a success why did they turn off the servers?

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Johnny Cullen

    Servers for Demon’s Souls are still online. In fact, they’re still on until October at least.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. LOLshock94

    he looks like someone out of the village ppl

    #14 4 years ago
  15. GwynbleiddiuM

    Last time BioWare did something that might be considered a risk was degeneration from Baldur’s Gate/Icewind Dale to Dragon Age. Well they really upset their hardcore fans, yet it was a huge success cuz it brought in many people. I am in agreement with 95% of TheWulf said.

    I think we should go back to the Pen and Paper era, where everything is still awesome.

    Last time that I really had fun with an RPG game was Divine Divinity. I do like Dragon Age and Mass Effect but, they have their disappointing moments.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. DSB

    Telling people to bet the company is a bit like telling a poker player to go all in on the first good hand.

    It won’t get you through a lot of tournaments :P

    I’d say Bioware have been pretty logical in their progression. They didn’t jump the gun on 3D like so many others when it was becoming popular, until they had a decent engine to support an RPG.

    I strongly dislike that they turned Mass Effect into a console shooter, though. Mass Effect 2 is the first Bioware game I’ve played that felt like it was going for the lowest common denominator in its writing, story and gameplay.

    #16 4 years ago

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