Canadian game developer BioWare announced at the end of last year that the trilogy-capping Mass Effect 3 would launch during the 2011 holiday season. This is no longer case. Casey Hudson, the series’ executive producer, took to Facebook yesterday to let fans know that release has been pushed back a bit, into 2012.
“Mass Effect 3 will be released in the first three months of 2012,” he wrote. “The development team is laser focused on making sure Mass Effect 3 is the biggest, boldest and best game in the series, ensuring that it exceeds everyone’s expectations.”
This is a smart move. For all of the steps forward it takes, most fans agree that Dragon Age 2 suffered in some fundamental ways because of what they perceive to be a rushed development timeline. There’s a similar danger with ME3, as it was set to follow DA2‘s lead in releasing a sequel just one year after its predecessor. Or there was a similar danger, until that release got pushed back. Don’t be surprised if another delay rears up before Q1 2012.
Electronic Arts boss John Riccitiello elaborated a bit more on the delay during yesterday’s investors conference call. “Essentially, step by step, [BioWare is] adjusting some of the gameplay mechanics and some of the features that you’ll see at E3 that can put this into a genre equivalent of shooter-meets-RPG, and essentially address a far larger market opportunity than Mass Effect 1 did and Mass Effect 2 began to approach.”
In other words, expect ME3 to fall closer to hardcore action than hardcore RPG. The series has always had an action bent to it, but ME2 definitely stepped away from BioWare’s role-playing game development roots more than its predecessor did. The challenge, of course, is keeping longtime fans happy while hopefully attracting some new ones.