The Next Mass Effect Won't Be "Mass Effect 4," Says Bioware
In response to the mess of rumors and speculation regarding the future of the Mass Effect series, Bioware representives took to the Bioware forums to explain what won't be happening to the franchise any time soon. First and foremost, the fourth game in the Mass Effect series will not be "Mass Effect 4."
According to Bioware community manager Chris Priestly, calling the next Mass Effect game, which is currently in development at Bioware Edmonton, "Mass Effect 4" has caused "a lot of confusion" for fans: "We have already said that the Commander Shepard trilogy is over and that the next game will not feature him/her," Preistly explained. "That is the only detail you have on the game. I see people saying 'well, they'll have to pick a canon ending.' No, because the game does not have to come after. Or before. Or off to the side. Or with characters you know. Or yaddayaddayadda."
Bioware Montreal director Rob Yanick also attempted to clarify things on the forums, adding that the team creating the next Mass Effect does not think of the game as "Mass Effect 4:"
"What Chris is saying is that thinking of the next Mass Effect game as "Mass Effect 4" would imply a certain linearity, a straight evolution of the gameplay and story of the first three games. But because we are switching to a new engine and need to rebuild a bunch of game systems, we have an opportunity to rethink how we want these systems to be going forward instead of just inheriting them from the previous games."
That said, Yanick reminded fans that making a game without Shepard does not necessarily mean the next Mass Effect story arc won't start after the events of Mass Effect 3. In fact, he even said that players' may still be able to import their choices from the original trilogy to help set the backstory of future Mass Effect games. Regardless of where or when the next Mass Effect takes place, it will feature aspects of the universe that fans will be familiar with.
The bottom line is that there are going to be more games set in the Mass Effect universe but, no matter what you think you read or saw, Shepard will play a tangential role in the game's story, at best.