EA shutting down Visceral Studios

EA is passing development of Visceral’s Star Wars project to other developers as it ramps down the studio.

EA’s Executive Vice President Patrick Söderlund has announced that Visceral’s Star Wars project is being changed drastically, and the studio originally in charge of the game is closing.

Visceral, which is best known for its Dead Space franchise, has begun ramping down production, and according to Söderlund, EA will do what it can to move employees to other games across the publisher’s studios.

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While we’ve only seen brief glimpses of Visceral’s untitled Star Wars game, many had high hopes. Led by ex-Naughty Dog lead Amy Hennig, the game was following the linear, narrative heavy focus popularized by the Uncharted franchise. According to Sönderlund’s comments, the Star Wars project is now pivoting to a more open-ended design that will offer players more longevity. In Sönderund’s words, with the game now in the hands of EA Worldwide Studios, the game will offer “greater breadth and depth” than Visceral initially planned for. While he didn’t say it outright, Sönderlund seems to suggest the publisher is looking for a multiplayer or open-world design to keep players engaged.

The shuttering of Visceral is a surprise: The studio went through a revamp in the last several years and released Battlefield: Hardline, which received a middling response from fans and critics. Since Hennig’s departure from Naughty Dog and EA’s on-going partnership with the Star Wars franchise, many expected Hennig to right Visceral’s ship and deliver a tightly focused experience. Sönderlund seems to suggest the studio wasn’t quite meeting EA’s vision when he said that playtesters wanted different things from the game than Visceral was creating. Where and what Hennig will do next is still unclear – she may part from EA, or perhaps she and the publisher have other plans.

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The development of the Star Wars game is now entirely in the hands of EA Worldwide Studios with EA Vancouver taking the lead. According to Sönderlund, EA’s Vancouver team has already been working on the game for some time. While Sönderlund implies that the new studio is taking over the existing project, it’s not far off to suggest the game Visceral was building at what players will ultimately get their hands on in a few years won’t be the same thing.

Last time EA and Visceral talked their Star Wars experience, it was said the game would come during fiscal year 2019. With Visceral closing down and development going through major development and design revisions, that launch window is no longer accurate. Sönderlund said the publisher and developers would give a better idea of when the game would launch when they were ready.

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