This could easily become a post about Mass Effect 3’s ending. It wouldn’t take much effort to ignorantly rant and rave about BioWare’s grand finale to their five-year series being destroyed by the last portion of the game. But it won’t, as the topic has been beaten so hard into the ground that its ghosts are still being bludgeoned.
The real concern does not stem from just this game, but the type of dialogue Mass Effect 3 brought to the surface. There’s nothing wrong with players having a conversation about games, whether it be online or offline, but the issue comes down to which side has the right to determine a game’s content, the players or the developers.
On one hand, players’ disappointment has quickly grown into anger. The snowballing rage was enough to create online petitions and Facebook pages demanding “better” endings.
Groups have formed, most notable the “Retake Mass Effect” campaign (a play on BioWare’s “take back Earth” promotion) that is working to persuade BioWare to edit the game’s original endings and wrap up what they perceive to be loose ends.
Though on the other hand, there’s BioWare themselves who have stated in interviews that they as a company “strongly believe in the team’s artistic vision for the end of this arc of the Mass Effect franchise.”
Retake’s mission statement claims that if BioWare desires to continue operating successfully as a business they must be amenable to the wishes of their customers, stepping back from the creative authority traditionally possessed by developers.
“We just want to release awesome stuff. Players please, give us a chance. Judge our games based on what they are,” said Christina Norman, a former Mass Effect Designer at a panel held at this year’s Games Developer Conference. “Stop thinking you’re a producer and telling us when and where we should be building our content.”
The negative publicity didn’t seem to do much to the game’s financial success, however. During game’s first month of release, the game’s publisher Electronic Arts still saw their stock rise. NPD reports that Mass Effect 3 was the top selling game in March, proving the saying that even negative publicity can be good publicity.
Even though Mass Effect seems to have escaped loss sales relatively unscathed, the threats of using sales against a developer are a serious matter. Games are expensive to produce and publishers are already hesitant to supporting new games in favor of investing in established franchises. After a painting is finished and hung a museum, if someone does not like the painting they wouldn’t demand that the painter change it. The painting is finished, as is the same with games.
Developers do not deserve to be threatened with sales when their game receives criticism, as it’ll only promote publishers to safe titles and impose on the artistic vision of creators.