Could BioWare Be Preparing a Mass Effect Social Game?

The team behind Dragon Age Legends at developer BioWare is recruiting for a new social game. Given that the next big console game due out for the developer is Mass Effect 3, we wonder if that could be the franchise in question.

You’ll get no context from the job posting itself; the text name-drops just about every franchise BioWare has ever produced with no significance placed on one more so than another. BioWare could be adapting its classic, Baldur’s Gate, for all we know. It seems more likely, however, that EA is pushing for a combination of standalone games within franchises and for “digital service” social games that support the release of a new console title. This is where Mass Effect for Facebook from BioWare would make sense, especially given EA’s current run of success with social games based on its more successful video game franchises.

What separates a standalone game from a “digital service” game, so far as we can tell, is the presence of a console game for the social game to support. Like Ubisoft’s Project Legacy and upcoming Ghost Recon Commander and inFamous Anarchy earlier this summer, digital service Facebook games are timed to launch alongside the console game and feature cross-compatibility in the form of item unlocks or special gameplay bonuses. Standalone games, meanwhile, carry the brand of a franchise onto Facebook, but exist as self-contained experiences with little to no cross-compatibility with any existing games within that franchise. A recent example of this would be Nival and KranX Productions’ King’s Bounty: Legions.

In the last six months, EA has been pushing a mix of the two types of social game onto Facebook while also revamping older titles like Scrabble with new cross-platform features. By spreading social game development duties around its internal studios from Playfish to EA2d (the studio behind Dragon Age Legends), EA has been able to keep a steady flow of releases for the quarter, the most recent of which being The Sims Social. Next up will likely be Risk: Factions, another collaboration between Playfish and internal studio EA Hasbro.

So far, EA seems to feel like it has had success with adapting its original intellectual property for Facebook, even when games aren’t getting massive amounts of traffic. According to our AppData traffic tracking service, Dragon Age Legends never did break the 1 million monthly active user mark that most social games aspire to, while The Sims Social shattered it even before the game was actually live. Even so, EA singled out Dragon Age Legends during an earnings call earlier this summer as a successful “digital service,” and told investors they planned to bring more core franchises to Facebook — though the company made no distinction between standalone games like The Sims Social and tie-in games like Dragon Age Legends (which depend on the launch of a new console game in the franchise). In other words, EA doesn’t seem like it would hold back from pushing for its EA Partner studios (like BioWare) for more social games after getting favorable results from Dragon Age and The Sims.

As far as Mass Effect goes, we’ll have to wait and see what shakes out on Facebook as the console game’s March 6, 2012 release date approaches. We observe that that’s almost a year to the day to Dragon Age 2’s release; Dragon Age Legends was first announced in February 2011. It’s also worth noting that the official fan Page (maintained through the Mass Effect 2 Page) has 739,036 Likes as of today — a healthy pool of potential players for a Mass Effect social game.