BioWare breaks up with fans after years of growing apart: ‘You need to move out by the end of the month’
You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
It probably never was a question of if, but when BioWare would pull the plug on it’s own forum. At the end of this month one of the most notorious discussion boards on the internet, BioWare Social Network, will be closed down. All the threads will be ‘read only’ for two months and then disappear for good.
BSN, as the regulars call it, is the favorite hangout of the die hard fanbase. A colorful bunch, especially interested in the various romance options BioWare’s games offer, the amount of nudity those should have, hair styles, various gender identities and the life of FemShep with Liara and their blue babies. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to meet other fans to have an in depth discussion about the lore of Mass Effect or Dragon Age. In fact, the big outline of the upcoming game Mass Effect: Andromeda was already a theory on BSN before any official info came out.
Screaming and yelling
BioWare is closing BSN down because ‘our developers today find themselves spending more time on other sites, and less time in our own forums’. Those other sites being all the big social media networks. It’s no secret that BSN has a difficult relationship with it’s hardcore fans. In 2011 people were very disappointed in Dragon Age II and were vocal about it, but one year later the fans’ reaction to Mass Effect 3 made gaming history.
The ending of the Commander Shepard-trilogy was far from satisfying for a lot of gamers. Some wanted it to be more happy, others needed more closure, there were those who hoped their choices mattered more, but most just wanted it to make some sense. The outrage on BSN was enormous. The community united and send BioWare 400 cupcakes as a protest, but also raised 80.000 dollar for a charity to make a statement. After weeks of screaming and yelling, the developers promised them an ‘extended cut’.
It lead to an industry wide discussion about ‘artistic integrity’ versus giving fans what they want. Although the cupcakes and fundraiser were a rather positive way to deal with anger, BSN changed for good. It seemed all members from then on were very skeptical of anything BioWare was doing. But it also affected the creators of the game, with BioWare employees even going to a therapist. David Gaider, lead writer of Dragon Age, wrote in 2013 that he stopped visiting BSN because of the toxicity there. ‘Spending too much time there starts to make me feel negative — not just about games we make, but about myself and life in general.’
Angry and entitled
The relationship between BioWare and BSN never really recovered, with developers avoiding the forum. The inhabitants of BSN became even more ‘exotic’ and the BioWare people became a bit smug about ignoring them. They now rather check out vloggers on YouTube and cosplay girls on DeviantArt. You know, the nice fans putting effort in their fandom, not the angry entitled ones ranting on their keyboard.
BioWare doesn’t need the fanbase it gathered on BSN to make their future games big commercial successes. There’s a good chance they listened too much to the BSN crowd than too little. They might even be better off without the place where people criticize them on a daily base, noting how The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt did everything better.
For the fans it’s quite a loss, because there isn’t an alternative website with so much dedicated fans of the games and their lore. And the next time they’ll be unhappy with the ending of a game, they will have a much more difficult time to set up collective actions. On the other hand, the ones that thought that writing down their opinion on BSN might reach the developers are now healed of that illusion and can stop bothering.