A Microsoft published title selling 1.6 million units in its first few weeks is a big deal. And when the title was Mass Effect, Bioware's massively anticipated space epic, the hype was only amplified.
It helped that the game warranted universal critical acclaim and along with Bioshock, Forza 2 and Halo 3 elevated the Xbox 360 to fame in 2007. Now, as Mass Effect 2 readies for a level walk-through at GDC '09, the rumors going around involves the series supposed multi-platform reach.
Granted, almost every company has or is rumoured to be ending age-old allegiances in this cost-hungry era of development. And hey, which gamer doesn't crave for more high-quality titles? The Mass Effect issue, however, involves more than a simple return on investments.
Bioware wants to demonstrate the lesser amount of time and high playability that Mass Effect 2 benefits from at the GDC. In other words, they want to demonstrate how they optimized development for their current tech, being in this case the 360 and PC platforms. Tweaking the engine to support the PS3's tech, while doable, requires more time and money.
Judging by the speed at which the first ME2 footage was announced, roughly one and a half years after it's predecessor's release, proves the same: Bioware will go with the engine and system architecture it can benefit from the most at this time.
It's also imperative to observe the differing audiences for the PS3 versus the 360 and PC. Japanese-developed RPGs have a greater degree of success in Japan than Western RPGs. Tales of Vesperia boosted the fledgling 360 to move more units in that country. Mass Effect, on the other hand, wasn't even released there. JRPGs have an added advantage of appealing to both Eastern and Western markets.
This is not to say PS3 fans don't play Western RPGs. Just that a large number of Western RPG gamers, Mass Effect's target audience, lay on the 360 and PC side. Compare the flops of Infinite Undiscovery, The Last Remnant and Blue Dragon with the blockbuster success of Mass Effect in the West. Observe Square-Enix's desire to release FFXIII for the 360 in the West and not in Japan, even after the PS3 version releases.
The target audience always defines what games hit which platform in what country and when, if at all. Both points of discussion revolve around initial investment and the risks involved. Millions sold means squat if a title under performs, as demonstrated by the multi-platform Tomb Raider: Underworld.
masseffect-21Mass Effect should not be deemed as a quality franchise unworthy or too safe to go multi-platform. Didn't Bioshock hit the PS3 in the end? Right now, Mass Effect is too big in scale and production costs to deal with in multi-platform absolutes. Bioware may attempt a "timed-exclusive" stance. Then again, just how many Bioware titles have come to the PS3 in it's two year life-cycle anyway?
Unless Bioware sees any exorbitant demand for it's titles, it's highly doubtful if they'll hop on the multi-platform band-wagon any time soon.
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