Does Mass Effect have a future on PS3?

This month will garnish what is widely regarded as a 2007 Game of the Year candidate. Developed by Bioware, Mass Effect is said to be a spectacular new vision of the future set in a bright universe, with a dark secret. What made this game truly special, at-least to Microsoft is that Bioware had plans to develop this title as an exclusive trilogy with all three games spanning the life span of the Xbox 360 console.

To Microsoft, Mass Effect was, and still possibly is, the bread and butter for the Xbox 360, especially since the Halo trilogy has came to a successful end. However, recent industry transactions have created clouds of doubt over Mass Effect and it’s future of the IP still staying 100% exclusive to the Xbox 360. This could lead to the possibility of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 3 coming to the PlayStation 3 console in the future.

The day was October 11th, 2007 when it all went down. Videogames giant, Electronic Arts, purchased the holding company that owns Bioware and Pandemic for USD 800 million.

"We are truly excited by John Riccitiello’s new vision for EA," said Ray Muzyka, Co-founder and CEO of BioWare Corp. in a news release Thursday. "This vision is consistent with BioWare’s focus on crafting the highest quality story-driven games in the world. It will enable us to further the careers of the passionate, creative and hard working teams at BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Austin."

Now, let us back up for a moment here and comprehend what is going on. Everyone who has followed the gaming industry for at-least the past five years or so would tell you that Electronic Arts is not akin to console specific games. Indeed, they even came out and publicly stated that they are for one universal gaming console, eliminating the three-way or sometimes two-way console wars t hat we are all used to today.

"We want an open, standard platform which is much easier than having five which are not compatible," EA’s Gerhard Florin said to BBC News.

This means that they like to share their creations and not have it confined to just one demographic. Just take a look at their track record as most, if not all, of the Electronic Arts games from 2001 to present was multiplatform. The last time Electronic Arts decided not to release a major game on a specific platform was in 1999 with the Sega Dreamcast. Electronic Arts did not believe that the lifespan of the Dreamcast would last that long and was not worth putting time and effort into; hence, they withheld Madden 2000 from the console. Since then, EA has made it their best efforts to have their games developed on as many platforms as possible, from PS3, to PC, to Mobile phones. Let us not forget now, Electronic Arts is an industry giant that is constantly seeking profit.

Now with that out of the way, it is pretty apparent that given the opportunity, Electronic Arts will not withhold any game back from any console unless there is a clear definitive reason. Back to Bioware and Mass Effect, which is where the real meat is. As previously stated, Mass Effect was planned as an exclusive trilogy for the Xbox 360, but now given the fact that EA now owns Bioware, Electronic Arts, not Microsoft will publish and distribute Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.

Also as previously stated, Electronic Arts does not play nice to console exclusives and if there is a profit to be made, best believe EA will capitalize on it. Enter the PlayStation 3 console with its powerful Cell technology and Blu-ray format, which you may remember was actually the original platform to base the series on, until BioWare opted to move the project over to Microsoft’s console due to lack of development kits from Sony.

When asked if Mass Effect will continue to be an Xbox 360 exclusive after the EA buyout, Greg Zeschuk CEO and Co-Owner of Bioware, had this to say:

”We can’t predict the future. We’ll see what happens. The key thing is we’re making a trilogy of Mass Effect games, and we’ve got a great story arc.”

That is weird because just a few months ago Greg Zeschuk would swear up and down that Mass Effect is and always will be exclusive to the Xbox 360, now it is a wait and see? This is only speculation now, so please do not take this as 100%, but this is not looking good for Microsoft.

When asked about the possibility of the trilogy continuing on the PlayStation 3, Greg Zeschuk had this to say:

“We have no plans currently to pursue that. Our focus is pure and simple; it’s to deliver the best game possible for our fans with Mass Effect, and that’s an Xbox 360 exclusive. Microsoft’s a great partner… and they’ve really helped build the value of the product and we’re proud to work with them.”

Let me take the time to analyze that for you all. To start things off Dr. Zeschuk said that they “currently” have no plans to develop Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 on the PlayStation 3. “Currently” is the key word as it leaves room for possibility. If Greg Zeschuk was 100% sure that Mass Effect and its future games will stay on the 360, then he would have said so, however he didn’t when given the opportunity. By saying “currently”, this could be implied as, “possibly, but right now we’re not thinking about it” this is different from “No, we have no plans to pursue that” which would have been more firm and precise.

Secondly Dr. Zeschuk said that right now, their main focus is with Mass Effect [As in Mass Effect 1] and that it is an Xbox 360 exclusive. This could possibly mean that no matter what, a ME port to the PS3 is out of the window; however, Zeshuck did not say anything else about Mass Effect 2 & 3 being an Xbox 360 exclusive. Again, this leaves the door open for the PlayStation 3, as Zeschuk could have easily utilized the opportunity to say that the Mass Effect trilogy is unequivocally an Xbox 360 exclusive, but failed to do so (seemingly pointing out that Mass Effect 1 is an 360 exclusive which makes ME2 as well as ME3 fair game)

Still, regardless if BioWare want to admit it to their fans or not, the acquisition of Electronic Arts will indeed affect Mass Effect in some way. Today the industry is one big profit machine – if EA sees bigger gains by placing the rest of the ME trilogy on the PS3 or even the PC, then by all means they will pursue that option without hesitation. Set aside your differences for a second, regardless if you’re a PS3, Wii, or 360 fans, just look at the situation. Can you honestly believe that the future of Mass Effect will remain an Xbox 360 exclusive with EA having a say in things?

Mass Effect is going to be a large IP and can easily be the next Final Fantasy to the gaming industry if not more. Electronic Arts has foreseen this, they see a future in Mass Effect….they see money in Mass Effect. In a few years, in time for Mass Effect 2, the PlayStation 3 would have gained an even larger fan base, on par with the 360 and possibly beyond. This is the market that we live in, where profit is behind all business decisions. With EA on board, we all know where their minds are.

EA loves for their titles to be enjoyed by gamers on many platforms. There is no way possible that EA will allow such a massive IP like Mass Effect to stay exclusive on one console for the whole trilogy, especially if it racks in the money that it is expected to make.

Mass Effect, coming November 20th in North America exclusively to the Xbox 360 will be a game that will drive holiday sales for the Microsoft Xbox 360. Beyond that, only the future can hold what is in store for the Mass Effect franchise.

However, PS3 owners should remember that BioWare confirmed to us earlier this year at GDC that they were working on a sci-fi title for Sony’s next-generation console, though it has yet to be officially unveiled.

Needless to say, stay tuned for more developments as soon as they break.