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Changing The Ending Of Mass Effect 3, Good Economics?

|Includes:Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), THQIQ, TTWO

By Jake Mann

Mass Effect. The name is revered universally by gamers looking for a truly innovative sci-fi experience that combines the best aspects of an explosive third-person shooter with intricate role-playing strategy. Throw in an epic storyline where protagonist Commander Shepard always seems to save humankind from the brink of destruction, and you have videogame perfection. The third installment of the Mass Effect franchise, aptly titled Mass Effect 3, has been touted as the best of the of the bunch since its release date on March 6th, and is a favorite for the Game of the Year award. Videogamers agree, as they purchased almost 1 million copies in the game's first 24 hours on the shelf.

Well, Mass Effect 3's developer Bioware and its buddies in the videogame industry are understandably rejoicing at the game's gaudy sales numbers. Remember, this is an industry that has been ravaged with declining revenues at a rather alarming pace in recent months - in fact, February saw total sales decline by 20 percent from the same month last year. Developers blame this decay on a host of problems - the increased popularity of downloadable content, the advent of the tablet industry and the lack of original new games, to name a few.

So, you can imagine the horror on the faces of Bioware executives when they discovered that thousands of Mass Effect 3's players were more than just a little upset about the game's ending, which has been confirmed as the conclusion to the entire Mass Effect series. Fans were so livid about the finale that they took to the internet and started a 'Retake Mass Effect 3' campaign that has swelled to over 50,000 supporters. Just to do some quick arithmetic, this movement began on March 8th, two days after the game was released. The game takes approximately 40 hours to complete. You do the math - these are some serious gamers.

In response to the fiasco, Bioware has recently announced that they will change the ending of the game to satisfy the mob of angry customers throwing computer-generated bricks through their virtual windows. Citing that their feelings were hurt, the developer has apologized for not meeting fans' expectations. Between the lines, this move shows the desperate state that the entire videogame industry is in, due to the fact that one of its largest developers is willing to spend additional time and money to change an already finished product. While it has not been released exactly how this modification will reach gamers who are craving for closure, it is expected that the new ending will be free downloadable content. Predictably, this saga has implications for the stock market.

Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA) The owner of Bioware, Electronic Arts has seen its stock drop 19 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Even the release of Mass Effect 3 has not helped this dud, as it currently sits at a price of $17.02 per share. While share price is obviously not the sole reason for Bioware's conciliation with fans, it is obvious that EA is willing to do anything it can to boost its business. Even though many of its competitors (TTWO, THQI) are currently down as well, this particular stock could be in the bargain bin, so to speak. If the new Mass Effect 3 ending is made available at any sort of cost, this could bring additional revenue to the company, translating to an eventual increase in share price. Over the next 6 months, look for staple games in EA's lineup like Madden 13, NCAA Football 13 and Tiger Woods 13 to provide another lift to the stock's price, proving they meet sales expectations.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.