Mass Effect 2 was the shining star of 2010, but the group behind it failed too many times

Develop 100: Why didn’t BioWare make it?

One of the industry’s most respected studios doesn’t appear in Develop’s definitive list of the best 100 developers in the world – why?

The 2011 edition of the Develop 100 – which you can find here – lists studios solely by their total average Metacritic scores in 2010.

Under this framework, BioWare didn’t even average high enough to make it into the list of top 200 developers. Top 300? Sadly not. Look lower.

It seems impossible. On face value, this one of those rare occasions when the statistics aren’t telling the entire truth, surely?

After all, the Canadian development powerhouse last year shot to the Metacritic heavens with Mass Effect 2 – a game that perfected the western RPG model as it exists today, a game that embodies the EA ‘quality first’ credo, a game with outstanding writing standards and, often, galaxy-sized scope.

While some may be aghast at the mere notion that Mass Effect 2’s creators aren’t in the Develop 100, we think the BioWare team, deep down, will understand.

It is a long-debated principle that a civilisation shouldn’t be measured solely by its most prosperous. Even in the often asinine culture of game development, we think the same attitude should be applied to game studios.

The truth: BioWare made poor content in 2010. Its Dragon Age Origins DLC policy was an unequivocal mess. A disaster. A monetisation strategy built on boredom. A year-long scattering of digital content that, much to the relief of EA, doesn’t come attached with a refund policy.

The nine Dragon Age Origins DLC packs carry the same creator’s name as Mass Effect 2 – a brand which people understandably trust. As such, all releases under that name have been included in BioWare’s Metacritic average. It’s the same policy for all studios.

The numbers hurt, but they don’t lie. They refuse to romanticise a studio that, clearly in some respects, is on top of its game.

Ultimately, BioWare itself doesn’t want to be the company that produced only one good product in 2010. No group of astoundingly creative people want that. Studios desire perfection across the board, not fifteen minutes of fame from a single stand-out game.

Ultimately, when the scores are settled, that’s what Develop 100 represents today.

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