The shuttering of Visceral Games, and shifting the studio's Star Wars game from a single-player, story-driven title to a multiplayer open-world one came as a surprise to people outside of EA.
For people who worked at EA, however, this pivot wasn't surprising at all. For gameplay designer at BioWare, Manveer Heir, who worked on multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 and later Mass Effect Andromeda, said that this move was "a thing inside EA."
"Why do you care about that at EA? The reason you care about that is because microtransactions: buying card packs in the Mass Effect games, the multiplayer. It's the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3: how do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of 'just' playing for 60 to 100 hours?"
Heir touched on the subject of bloated game budgets, often pushing well past $100 million. According to the designer, this doesn't leave room for mid-tier, single-player-only games with smaller budgets because "publishers in general only care about the highest return on investment."
"They don't actually care about what the players want, they care about what the players will pay for," he added.
Heir gave the example of microtransactions in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, which made so much money that EA decided to have a similar multiplayer mode in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and of course in Andromeda.
"I've seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards," he recalled.
The unnamed Star Wars project is now being built by EA's new Motive studio, and EA didn't share any other details about the game beyond the shift in scope.