Ex-BioWare Developer Manveer Heir Talks EA, Mass Effect, and Microtransactions

If you've found yourself questioning some of the decisions that have been made at BioWare in recent years, you might want to check out this lengthy audio interview with former BioWare developer Manveer Heir on Waypoint, where they talk about the impact of the EA acquisition, his contributions to the Mass Effect series, the industry trend of favoring multiplayer over single player, and the reasons why they implemented microtransactions into the sci-fi RPG franchise. In short, it's because there are people in the world who are willing to spend as much as $15,000 on digital cards, as GameSpot's partial transcription points out in clear detail:
"The words in there that were used are 'Have them come back again and again,'" Heir said. "Why do you care about that at EA? The reason you care about that is because microtransactions: buying card packs in the Mass Effect games, the multiplayer. It's the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3: how do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of 'just' playing for 60 to 100 hours?"

According to Heir, microstransactions have become one of the publisher's primary concerns thanks to the sheer amount of money they can bring in. "You need to understand the amount of money that's at play with microtransactions," he said. "I'm not allowed to say the number but I can tell you that when Mass Effect 3 multiplayer came out, those card packs we were selling, the amount of money we made just off those card packs was so significant--that's the reason Dragon Age has multiplayer, that's the reason other EA products started getting multiplayer that hadn't really had them before, because we nailed it and brought in a ton of money." He also said he's "seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards."

This move away from dedicated single-play experiences is also the reason BioWare's upcoming game, Anthem, looks so different from the studio's previous output. "If that's what you're seeing from a place like BioWare, owned by EA, a place where I worked for seven years; if that's what you're seeing from Visceral now closing and going to this other Vancouver studio; what it means is that the linear single-player triple-A game at EA is dead for the time being," Heir said.
What do you suppose that means for the future of Anthem?