You're thinking too linearly. Why can't it be all those things? That's the whole point of creating a franchise that can cross boundaries. I'm not advocating making one or the other, I'm advocating that EA, who now owns ME, use this incredibly versatile franchise with their incredible resources and make more games of different genre in a single franchise. Leave Bioware to make true RPGs and give other genre games to other studios better suited to them.
To put it in simpler terms, it's about time games followed the example of the Marvel Film Universe. The individual stories are just that, individual, and each hero has a different focus, there is even different platforms for the stories to be told with the Shield TV show likely to be picked up. All of this variety and yet it all ties in to a larger meta story that resolves in each Avengers movie. The best franchises in gaming can do just the same thing, and they should. Sure, people will bitch about it at first, but all it takes is EA to come out and say 'we're still making core ME games developed by Bioware, but these are other games in different genres that support the franchise, add more stories. Just because ME started out as an RPG, it doesn't mean that people will only respond to RPGs, for one thing, MEs pure RPG credentials are shaky at best as EA/Bioware have steadily shifted it away from an RPG to a hybrid game.
Personally, I'd be much happier with a new pure RPG in the series AND a separate shooter that doesn't have to worry about playing around with RPG elements. Hell, the shooter genres in general are in dire need of a new experience to shake things up, pure FPS and 3PS games set in the ME universe could challenge both Halo and Gears of War on the sci-fi shooter front and also be EAs way of breaking Acti's dominance with CoD. A publisher with high quality military shooters AND Sci-fi shooters on their books and being released bi-annually? Frankly i'm surprised they haven't thought of this before. They could even challenge the AC games if they wanted. Think about it, and AC style game that focuses on Thane Krios and tells his back story?
No doubt it would take some measure of bravery and a lot of planning from EA, they'd probably need to hire a team to purely oversee all the individual games in the franchise and make sure they all tie together for consistency (kind what Joss Whedon now does for the Marvel Film Universe), but it would work and (assuming the game are decent) be very successful.
I understand where you are coming from but the Marvel film universe, probably not the best illustration of that. You see the marvel film universe, Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, not only are these all movies in the same genre (Superhero action films) but the plan was always from day one to create a large movie franchise out of them. Hence Samuel L. Jackson's cameos and the stingers at the end credits and whatnot. Mass Effect was planned as a trilogy and now EA are looking to squeeze that cash cow teat for all it's worth, your idea while certainly makes a lot of sense from a financial standpoint is also filled with risk, more often than not it fails miserably. Another potential hazard is franchise saturation. CoDs biggest problem is that we are sick of seeing that same franchise year in and year out. At this point I don't think it would matter if next years CoD was an RTS and the following year 3PS and the year after an RPG. CoD is a series we all want a break from (or not as the case may be for some) of course it could be done right, it could be a very sucessful enterprise but this is EA we're talking about and they will find some way to mess it up.
No, the MFU is a great illustration of my point, you're just still directly linking it to ME, I only use ME as an example as it is currently the most applicable, it's the current franchise with the greatest potential, but the MFU is evidence of how a planned and structured meta franchise can work. Sure the MFU was set out to be an interwoven web of films, but not a TV show, this was added recently because it would work, and from what has been said, it's very different, not the high action of the films, but more of a typically Whedonesque dramady with action moments. This doesn't make it a bad comparison though. Yes ME started out with a different purpose, but it has the capacity to transcend its original purpose. If you want to look at things like that Comic Books were only meant to be Comic books they moved to TV and then film because they could. They can change media and games can change genre without losing artistic and narrative integrity.
You say my idea is filled with risk and more often than not fails? How many other game franchises have tried to make a planned and structured multiple genre meta franchise? I can't think of any. C&C tried something different as a test, an idea from nothing and people didn't take to it because they wanted just more RTS games. This isn't surprising as they were afraid of losing a high quality RTS franchise. I'm not advocating this.Star Wars have crossed a lot of genres, but they've had a lot of very crap games and there was no real plan or structure, it was a case of throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. Halo, a very successful franchise also had Halo Wars which, whilst not as popular, was still a very good game that a lot of people DID like, it wasn't in any way a failure. Warhammer 40K has had more success, but it wasn't planned either. Dawn of War is an awesome RTS, DoW 2 is a solid and fun RTS/RPG hybrid, as a campaign, it's a very clever system. Then they made Space Marine, an attempt at the GoW game type. It wasn't perfect, but it was fun. Last gen also had Fire Warrior which was an excellent FPS. Again, this was more a case of trying different things than a plan, but it worked.
So yes, there is evidence where cross genre struggles, there is also evidence where it succeeds, but all that evidence is on franchises that have had random games made just to try other stuff. That's not what I'm advocating. There has never been a massive cross genre franchise, never has any publisher gone out and chosen to develop a huge meta world in this fashion. To continue the example with ME, the original trilogy did a good job of telling one story, but did a much better, much more important job of setting up this huge universe full of worlds, species, stories etc, it is as well defined a universe as Star Trek and Star Wars. If EA decided to take the meta franchise approach they could easily just put particular studios in charge of particular games and the games themselves would likely be decent, but if they were smart (very questionable) they would have people overseeing the meta franchise to make sure everything ties together. I'm not talking about bringing all the threads together for one mega game, but by planning for each game and its story to tie in with the lore, the history, to be consistent. At that point the only real risk is that the individual games are crap, and say what you will about EA, they don't tend to make crap games.
Franchise saturation? Not something we've ever come across before. People aren't sick of CoD because it's more CoD, they're sick of it because it's basically the exact same game every year, no real change of any value. This isn't something I'm advocating. We don't know how well a cross genre CoD would have worked because we've never seen it, but whilst you say it wouldn't work, I don't agree, if Activision came out at E3 and declared they were working on more CoD but also a new RTS game in the series, people would be intrigued, interest revitalized. Of course people would be sceptical, they would have good reason to be, but people wouldn't just fart on it. What I am advocating though is the merits of a planned cross genre approach, letting people know that the changes in genre is not an attempt to shift away from the core, but rather to expand on the potential. People get fed up with annual releases when they're the exact same basic game over and over again, but a planned franchise that had pure genre approaches that all had multiple year development cycles? Imagine for a moment that Bioware make another 3 ME RPGs, but this time they are all pure RPGs, not hybrids, and that the shooter half of the hybrid is taken out because a separate studio are working on a series of pure shooters. Would this not be better? I recall you saying yourself you would prefer a more pure RPG experience. So lets say we get it, and we also have shooters, the games are in the same franchise but are entirely different genres that are only similar in the basic character and world design, but the stories could be entirely separate, never directly linking. Would people really become jaded and tired of regular ME games when they're actually very different experiences. This wouldn't be CoD "Oh joy, here comes another modern military shooter". Perhaps people would get tired of the same franchise over and over, but I doubt it, despite them being the exact same games over and over EA, Activision and even Ubisoft all thrive on the consistency of their major franchises, people still buy them anyway. I don't believe it's the franchises that are the problem, it's the identical games year after year that are.
I've used ME as a consistent example because it is the easiest current franchise to make the point with, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it NEEDS to be ME, it would be just as good if a new franchise was created for the job. Defiance could work. It's got a TV show which has a lot of potential and a very popular MMO, plus the world that is being created could easily allow for a number of different genre of games to be made.
To get down to the main point. This next generation of gaming has the potential to transcend what has gone before. In previous generations single games were made and if they happened to be successful a sequel was made and that cycle continued for as long as the demand was there. This generation has allowed developers to plan multi-game storylines. Sometimes it works (ME) sometimes it doesn't (Too Human) the difference? Quality of the game. Next gen and beyond can allow a publisher like EA to build on this, to create a real brand loyalty in fans by giving them the games they want and also creating other games in the brand that will just help it to keep growing. ME is the perfect brand/franchise for this right now and there is a lot of potential for it to work with Warhammer 40K, all it will take is a publisher brave enough to step up and plan it properly.