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Why Bioware brought ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ to CES

On January 4, BioWare presented a coveted new snippet of gameplay footage from Mass Effect: Andromeda as part of GPU-maker Nvidia’s CES keynote. Though short, the presentation was a “deep dive” of sorts. The two-minute sequence shows off menu screens and skill trees for the first time, as well as a brief, hectic battle.

CES seems an odd venue for a Mass Effect announcement. Though there are gaming PCs, TVs, and all manner of devices that gamers need, CES has always been a hardware show. These days, developers don’t need a venue to show off a game — just set a time on Twitter and jump on Twitch — so, if anything, the decision to reveal that kind of information in this venue feels even more like a dedicated choice.

This is not the first time that EA and BioWare have gone out of their way to put Andromeda next to cutting edge tech. Andromeda showed some of its first real gameplay footage at Sony’s event unveiling the PlayStation 4 Pro last fall.

Digital Trends caught up with BioWare General Manager Aaryn Flynn after Nividia’s keynote to find out, “Why here? Why now?”

Digital Trends: Between the PS4 Pro event and this keynote, it seems like BioWare is trying to put Andromeda next to new tech. What thought process behind that strategy?

Aaryn Flynn: We’ve always thought of Mass Effect as a game [series] that is very ambitious, and, when you’re talking about a sci-fi RPG of this scale, the scale of what Mass Effect can be, you really have to understand what technology is available if you want to tell an amazing story and push boundaries.

We’ve always tried to push boundaries with Mass Effect, even when we started the series almost 10 years ago. It definitely tried to push boundaries. We really like the idea of playing around with the new hardware, of all the things you can do now like HDR, [and] super high-resolution stuff like 4K. All that stuff really makes Mass Effect come to life in ways we never had before. I think we’ve always had that in the DNA [of the series]. I think it’s really just very nice time to be making a Mass Effect game because so many of those things are a reality for people.

Digital Trends: While there’s obviously a lot of PC hardware at CES, a lot of us don’t think of it as a “gaming show.” Why did you decide to show so many deep gameplay details at this event?

A couple of thoughts on that: First, I think that is where gaming is at, as it relates to overall marketplace and size of this industry. I hope there are a lot more people around who actually do appreciate what it is. I think it’s becoming a bit of a stigma that’s going away that the stuff that we’re showing here is actually so core that it belongs in a hyper-focused game conference.

When Nvidia invited us here it just seemed like a great fit because they are doing so many things that are exciting to us, HDR, high-resolution stuff, the PC gaming community. We’re really, really happy with our PC Gaming community. We wanted to do a lot for them and give them a fantastic experience. Given that we’re launching March 21 in North America, it was great timing for us to come out here and start the new year right, so we took advantage of it.

On that note, you announced the game’s release date prior to the big show here. Wouldn’t it have made sense to announce that information on stage?

I think what we really wanted to do was get the information out there in the morning, and then let people understand that, when it’s on a lot of our players’ minds — ‘when’s it coming? It’s coming March 21” — and now remind them that they get to tune in and see some of the footage they’ve been asking us for. See those gameplay menu screens, see that combat and everything. It was just a chance to stage, get that message out, and give them a full day of news.

What do you hope to accomplish from being at the show?

I think [we hope to] show people that Mass Effect: Andromeda is the kind of game that a lot of people are going to play in a lot of different ways. They’re going to play in their living room, on their console. They’re going to play on their PC, in their office, or wherever they put their PC. And I think that Mass Effect, as a brand and an experience, really is that kind of experience that starts to transcend more traditional gaming. It’s the kind of game that goes front-and-center at a place like CES.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.