PAX East, like most other conventions and industry events, is usually a time for gamers to gather together, play demos of anticipated games, listen to developers talk about upcoming projects at panels, and cosplay as their favorite fictional characters. But PAX East this year will have an added element that might make the show a bit less fun and a bit more tense than in previous years. I am specifically referring to BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 panel.
Mass Effect 3 has made the news in the gaming community, and even outside of the gaming community, for the past few weeks. The hoopla over the ending of the game and the fan movement to change that ending has caused quite a stir in the gaming community. In fact, it is without a doubt the largest uproar over a game’s ending that I have ever seen or that recent history has.
Usually if there is a negative response to an aspect of a game, the developer/publisher will make an official statement and do what they can to try and alleviate fan displeasure. The fact that the ending of the story itself is what people are complaining about (and not a technical issue) makes this a bit stickier, but BioWare has still been very tight lipped about what it plans on doing about the situation.
But PAX East seems to be when BioWare is likely to actually clarify what is going on and what it is doing about the ending controversy. BioWare promised that the company is hard at work on initiatives that will help to “clarify” plot points for fans but any official announcement has been vague at best and uninformative at worst.
Rarely does a panel at a convention hold so much importance but the fact that BioWare booked this panel in advance, knowing the game would have been out for a month, tells me that there is probably some kind of plan that is going on behind the scenes. BioWare isn’t stupid; the company HAD to know that the ending given would cause a problem, if for no other reason than the fact that it barely explained what happened after the final choice.
Could BioWare have booked this panel strategically as a good time to announce something? It seems reasonable given that the company has long-term plans for DLC and the future of the series. The few tweets and statements we have heard point to giving more players time to complete the game. Maybe BioWare figured a month was a good amount of time to wait, giving players worldwide time to complete the game before any post-launch specifics were released.
This isn’t an unreasonable assumption, but it could also be just wrong. BioWare could have booked the panel as a bit of a “victory lap” for the game or even just as a launching point for DLC but not for story clarification. Perhaps BioWare didn’t think the fan base would be THIS upset with the ending. Regardless of speculation, one fact remains: PAX East is the best time for BioWare to come clean and announce something definitively.
Whether we like it or not, many of the fans of the series are looking to PAX East as a way for BioWare to redeem itself for the ending that they were given. Is the popular theory that is going around the internet true? Is ending DLC coming? Will there be alternate endings added or will the ending be completely retconned? What is BioWare planning to do in terms of pricing for this DLC? Will it be free? $10? $15? The questions keep piling up and answers just aren’t there.
A month is a long time in the entertainment business; even the most successful movies dwindle in ticket sales after a month, the shock of a TV finale wears off after a month as new shows begin to pick up. There has been plenty of time for the fans that are upset to start to move on and now is the time to recapture their attention. BioWare (I’m talking to you now) give something definitive. You don’t need to spoil every plan that you have for the game going forward, but the fans need an answer. This is a highly publicized event and your most hardcore fans (the ones that take the time to spend hours of their day on your forums) are the ones you stand to lose if you give more vague information at PAX East. A simple explanation of when the DLC is coming and if it will change, alter, or add to the current ending will be completely sufficient.
It is, in a way, sad that what should be a celebration of gaming is going to turn into “all eyes on BioWare” with fans demanding clarification to the ending of the game but that’s the hand that has been forced. It doesn’t take a background in PR to know that people will only go along with vague explanations for so long and a big media event is a fantastic time to turn the tide of emotion from negative to positive.
Most fans are angry because they love the series and they want to see a more satisfying conclusion than what was given. Most would agree that movements like “Retake Mass Effect” and the plethora of negativity over the ending only exist because these fans absolutely LOVE the universe that BioWare has created and want to see it done justice. If they didn’t love it so much, they wouldn’t take the time to protest the ending.
So, in conclusion, regardless of how you feel about the ending or if it should be changed, I think we can all agree that PAX East is an opportunity for clarity that BioWare can’t pass up. Feed the fans more “we’ll talk about it later” or “we’re working on it” and risk pushing people past the limit of their patience. BioWare, regardless of how I feel about the ending I love the Mass Effect series and want to see what you have in store for it. I also want to see it thrive and continue on with a huge fan base, so for the sake of keeping the fan base large and vital and the property relevant, please throw us a bone at PAX East. Ball’s in your court.