Welcome to the FlipSide, where the good and the bad in video games collide. Every week, I will recap one positive news story, one negative news story, and then explain what I think about both. Let’s begin this week with the bad…
Mass Effect Andromeda has been taking a beating on social media because of some badly rendered animations throughout the game. A neoGAF thread has been made that showcases a bunch of different animations that could use some extra work. The amount of backlash the game has received has led to developer BioWare speaking out about plans on fixing these animations. Lead Designer Ian S. Frazier addressed the controversial facial animations saying “We’re looking at patching lots of issues and want to strongly support the game moving forward. I can’t say more just yet.” While the game is still receiving good reviews despite the animation issues, the bad press could end up hurting sales in a very crowded month of March.
The Public Relations department for BioWare is no stranger to having to deal with public outcry. Go back to the release of Mass Effect 3 back in 2012 to find another controversy they had to deal with. The PR team had to address infamous palate swap ending that made a lot of people mad. I was a little upset with the ending myself, but it wasn’t the end of the world for me like it seemed to be for others. However, because of the ending to that game, I believe Andromeda is under a lot of pressure. With all that, any thing that could possibly be picked apart by the public is going to be picked apart. That is exactly what has happened now and BioWare has a ways to come back to the good graces of their fans.
Anyone who has knowledge of game development in anyway should be able to see that this kind of game is very hard to develop. Between all the different worlds, branching storylines, and the action-RPG gameplay, there had to be a tremendous workload to get this game put together and out the door. It would have even been hard for the original developer to make this game, but a different team was put in charge of the series. BioWare is split among a few different teams. The original trilogy was made by Edmonton, the original BioWare studio. Andromeda was developed Montreal, a team that was assembled in 2009 to be an assistant to Edmonton when needed. Andromeda is the first game that this team has developed as the lead studio. Combine a younger studio, a huge property like Mass Effect, and the fact it’s the team’s first game together and you are bound to run into these issues. This should be a very familiar scenario to fans of the Batman Arkham series. Rocksteady was in charge of Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Arkham Knight. However, don’t forget that WB Montreal – man what’s up with the city of Montreal? – did an Arkham game as well. They developed Arkham Origins which I believe was unfairly scrutinized and picked apart because it wasn’t Rocksteady developing the game. The same could be happening with Andromeda, but I can’t defend it like I can with Arkham Origins because I haven’t gotten around to playing Andromeda as of yet.
Let’s not place all the blame on BioWare Montreal. Where is the publisher at in this mess. Sometimes the public can be too quick to judge the wrong people. According to Ian, this can all be patched out. Well, what if EA gave BioWare more time to fix these animation issues? I had been saying all along that this game was going to be delayed from the Spring release date. I was wrong, but I should have been right. I understand EA has to hit sales goals because they have to please the suits of the company, but this game may have been better off being delayed for a couple months. Not only to put more time into the production and development, but to get it away from this super crowded March. EA is a smarter company than this and they should have seen the writing on the wall. I know we don’t have sales figures yet, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this game underperforms because of the bad press and the time frame it came out in. When that happens, I will point the finger at EA and not BioWare Montreal.
However on the FlipSide this week!
Nintendo has pinpointed the issue with the faulty Joy-Con syncing. The issue comes from faulty production, not a design flaw. This was an issue that made headlines when Switches first started getting into the press’ hands. Depending on how the Joy-Con was held, it could lose connection to the Switch. When this first started happening some outlets were able to replicate the issue while others couldn’t. It appears now why that makes sense. Nintendo issued a statement saying “Moving forward this will not be an issue.” Nintendo also stated that anyone that is still having issues after troubleshooting should reach out to Nintendo customer support. They said that they could have affected controllers repaired and back into the customer’s hands in less than a week for free. It sucks that some will have this issue persist, but it’s good that it’s not a design issue and that there will only be a finite amount of Joy-Cons that will have this issue.
You may be confused if this is suppose to be good or bad on this week’s FlipSide. Considering I threw EA under the bus above, this is indeed my good news for the week! This is an example of very well done PR. When the issue started becoming widespread, Nintendo came out and said they were looking into the issue. They also provided a troubleshooting guide to help resolve some of these issues. Now, Nintendo has confirmed the origin of the problem and they will help those that need additional help.
That’s my favorite part about this story. Those that are affected can get their Joy-Con(s) repaired not only for free but have them back in less than a week. I believe that’s an amazing turnaround time. Nintendo did say that can very depending on the region, but it seems like most places will have that turnaround time available to them. If they didn’t, I don’t know why Nintendo would have said it. Despite the Switch feeling like a beta in many ways, you can see what Nintendo wants to do and how the company is trying to change in a very positive way. This treatment of customer service is another example just that.
This is a great example of PR done well. Hopefully, BioWare’s PR department can do as well of a job as this animation issue unfolds. I feel sorry for this team because of the position they have been put in. I hope a couple months from now we can look back and forget this and remember Mass Effect: Andromeda as a good game. I will be back next week with more of the good and the bad in the world of video games.