Space has always been a big theme in games, but in 2016 publishers seemed to have a renewed interest in the genre.
In 2016, we had Stellaris, EVE: Valkyrie, Kerbal Space Program, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Adrift, The Solus Project, as well as continued support for Destiny, Elite Dangerous, Star Wars Battlefront and StarCraft II. And, of course, the much-talked-about No Man’s Sky.
“Space travel and exploration are topics that seem to continually be top of our minds,” EA’s senior product manager in the UK Alice Brandvik tells MCV.
“Particularly over the last year we’ve seen regular news
stories about new discoveries in the real world, which has been perfect timing for the launch of Mass Effect: Andromeda.”
The new entry in the beloved space franchise will hit shelves on March 23rd and EA intends to make good use of this persistent interest for space in the gaming community – and beyond – to market the title.
“The premise of Andromeda is centred on the excitement and fear of the unknown and exploring a new galaxy, so we’ve been able to tap into a whole new avenue and audience for our marketing campaign,” Brandvik continues.
“We also have a global partnership with the European Space Agency that has allowed us to send ‘potential Pathfinders’ to one of their training facilities in Cologne to learn more about real world space travel. There’s more content to come from this partnership as we get closer to launch as well.”
Marketing-wise, we can’t think of anything cooler than partnering with a real Space Agency, but Mass Effect: Andromeda has other aces up its sleeves to help attract gamers, regardless of whether they’re already fans of the series.
Andromeda is set between the events of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, so it should be considered a separate entity from the main series, Brandvik says.
“Mass Effect: Andromeda is a fresh start for the franchise. It takes players to the Andromeda Galaxy, far beyond the Milky Way, where they’ll fight for a new home in hostile territory. The Andromeda Initiative, set up to help the search for a new home, includes various species from the Milky Way. You play as one of twin siblings - Scott or Sara Ryder - joining the Pathfinder team who’s tasked with finding humanity’s new home.”
One of the reasons behind this change was to attract new players to the best-selling franchise:
“Whilst certain aspects of the game will feel familiar to fans of the original trilogy [such as some] species and nostalgic nods to the previous titles, the storyline, setting and characters are brand new to Andromeda. Existing Mass Effect fans are hugely passionate about the franchise and it was important for the game to feel right for them.
“Having said that, players can also come into this game without any previous knowledge of the franchise and still enjoy the experience of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s cinematic storytelling that fans of BioWare games have loved for years.”
Outside of Mass Effect’s core fan base, EA is targeting “sci-fi and RPG fans,” Brandvik adds, with storytelling being one of its key selling points.
“BioWare and the Mass Effect franchise have a rich tradition of storytelling, and more than ever this is a story about the people you’re with. An intimate story in an epic new setting.
“Ryder is the tip of the spear and the hope for humanity, leading a small team to discover and fight for a new home. But you and your team are the aliens – strangers in a strange land encountering new planets, species, friends and enemies. Your choices and decisions will have consequences, deciding the very fate of humanity.”
There are other key features to look forward to in Mass Effect: Andromeda, too, such as its starry voice cast.
“There’s amazing voice-over talent in the game with Clancy Brown (Alec Ryder), Fryda Wolff (Sara Ryder) and Tom Taylorson (Scott Ryder) taking leading roles,” Brandvik says. “In the UK market, there are some local accents as well, including Natalie Dormer as Dr Lexi T’Perro.
“Natalie’s been a key part of our PR activity, with her involvement in the game announced a few weeks ago to a really positive reception among long-time fans and those just discovering the game.”
Casting someone as globally famous as The Tudors and Games of Thrones star Natalie Dormer definitely shows EA’s will to attract players outside of Mass Effect’s traditional fanbase - maybe even outside of gaming. Despite EA placing a heavy focus on new players, though, fans of the series have not been forgotten.
“It’s EA’s first triple-A launch of 2017, so there’s a significant campaign to support it,” says Brandvik. “Since N7 Day last year, we’ve been talking to core fans with social activations, preview events and interviews with key members of the development team who’ve been central in sharing the new aspects of the game.
“The story and characters will be new to everyone so players won’t miss out if they haven’t engaged with a Mass Effect game before. Now is the time to dive in, and our marketing plans have several elements to help raise awareness among this new audience.”