Following a lukewarm third outing, the Dead Space series may be adrift in the abyss, but it isn't dead yet. The last survivor of survival-horror, EA's limb-shredding actioner downed tools and ditched its crew earlier this year to enter a prolonged period of cryosleep. With franchise founders Visceral Games moving on amid rumors of creative differences (read- EA's monetization-based meddling) will we be seeing a return to necro-controlled space any time soon?
Speaking at LA's annual E3 event this past week, EA Labels President Patrick Soderlund expressed his belief in the franchise's bright future, calling it "a brand that is close to Electronic Arts' heart." Though no sequels were officially outed, the director did tout the "exciting" work being done by Visceral Games on their latest project, an unnamed Star Wars title still in the embryonic stages of development.
Interestingly, for a company so in love with the notion of yearly iterations, Soderlund explained away Visceral's relocation as part of a larger creative exercise, stating,
"Is it better to put them on the fourth version of a game they've done three previous versions of before? Or is it better to put them on something new that they want to build, that they have passion for?"
Given EA's avowed practice of employing franchise-specific studios for decades or more at a time, (think of Madden, FIFA, Tiger Woods etc.) Soderlund’s statement comes across as being more than a little duplicitous. With the company acquiring the lucrative Star Wars license back in May, any and all studios possessed of science fiction pedigree were likely to find themselves reassigned post-haste. If that studio just so happened to be the critically acclaimed Visceral Games, then so much the better.
From a business standpoint, the decision to eschew Dead Space for Star Wars - at least for the time being - makes perfect sense. A cult hit when it first appeared back in 2008, Dead Space nevertheless failed to live up to EA's fiscal expectations. Judged against the mammoth success of the dissimilar Mass Effect series, publisher pressure eventually transformed the franchise from an eerie action-horror title to a more generic jump-scare shooter. Read our Dead Space 3 review for more on that.
Released in February of this year, Dead Space 3 sold poorly in comparison to its immediate predecessor, ultimately failing to hit the 5 million-unit viability quota established by company executive Frank Gibeau that same month.
Could the series still end up at another studio? Soderlund doesn't seem to think so, stating "Have we killed [Dead Space]? No, of course not. But right now that dev team is focused on something else." If developer and franchise are as co-dependent as Soderlund indicates, then it may well take the outright failure of Visceral's next title to return power to this ailing space farer.
For more on Dead Space and Visceral’s untitled Star Wars title, keep your com-scanners locked on Game Rant.