Stupid Fun Club: Will Wright Leaves Maxis

By Jim Rossignol on April 8th, 2009 at 7:34 pm.


Will Wright has left EA to start up an “entertainment think tank” that EA is investing in. It’s called Stupid Fun Club. “The entertainment industry is moving rapidly into an era of revolutionary change,” said Will Wright. “Stupid Fun Club will explore new possibilities that are emerging from this sublime chaos and create new forms of entertainment on a variety of platforms.” EA will get the right to develop any game concepts produced by the think tank. Full press blurb below.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS – News) announced today that EA is making an equity investment in Stupid Fun Club, Will Wright’s new adventure. Stupid Fun Club is an entertainment think tank developing new Intellectual Properties to be deployed across multiple fronts including video games, movies, television, the internet, and toys. Will Wright is leaving EA to run Stupid Fun Club.

EA and Will each own equal percentages of Stupid Fun Club and are the principal shareholders. In addition, EA has the right to develop game concepts that spring from Stupid Fun Club projects. Will Wright is represented by Creative Artists Agency.

“The entertainment industry is moving rapidly into an era of revolutionary change,” said Will Wright. “Stupid Fun Club will explore new possibilities that are emerging from this sublime chaos and create new forms of entertainment on a variety of platforms. In my twelve years at EA, I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside some of the brightest and most talented game developers in the industry and I look forward to working with them again in the near future.”

“We believe in Will’s vision for Stupid Fun Club and we’re looking forward to partnering with Will and his team long into the future,” said John Riccitiello, EA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Will is a great designer and he’s been part of a great legacy of globally recognized game franchises like The Sims, SimCity and Spore. The teams that have been leading those franchises in recent years have a lot of exciting content coming.”

“Will has been an inspiration to our teams, and it’s been rewarding for us to bring his ideas to life,” said Lucy Bradshaw, VP and General Manager at Maxis. “In addition to legendary games, Will’s legacy at EA will be the many talented people who worked with him and will now continue to contribute their own vision to the art of game development.”

Will Wright created Maxis with Jeff Braun in 1989, which was acquired by EA in 1997. Will is the visionary designer of blockbuster game concepts like Spore™, The Sims™ and SimCity™. Lucy Bradshaw, VP and General Manager at Maxis™, will continue to run Maxis and the Spore franchise. Lucy’s team is working on the upcoming expansion pack, Spore Galactic Adventures, as well as other game concepts including Spore Hero, Spore Hero Arena and Spore Creature Keeper. Rod Humble is head of the EA™ Play Label and his team will launch The Sims 3 in June of this year.

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68 Comments »

  1. VLADIMIRPUTIN says:

    All I can say is holy shit I didn’t see that coming.

  2. Bret says:

    Wasn’t that the name of the guys he built robots with in his spare time?

    So basically, he has a major corporation paying him to do what he normally does as a goofy hobby.

    Lucky bastard.

  3. Tei says:

    EA has fired WW?.. lame, and sad.

  4. Mike says:

    That Mr. Wright has a gooood job!

  5. Jezebeau says:

    Oh thank the gods! He was becoming almost as bad as Peter Molyneux.

  6. Mo says:

    Actually Tei, EA gave Will Wright *more* money to do even *crazier* shit.

  7. Chiablo says:

    I view Will Wright as a pioneer of gaming as we know it. However, just like if we sent some of the original pioneers from Plymouth Rock into orbit, they wouldn’t do too well.

    Notice how all of the old pioneers of gaming try to get back into hearts of gamers and usually crash and burn? Will Wright, John Carmack, Richard garriott, etc. I honestly think it’s a good thing that Mr. Wright has been put out to pasture.

  8. Not Bernard says:

    “Spore Hero, Spore Hero Arena and Spore Creature Keeper.”

    Wow. Until I googled that, I just thought this was some kind of crappy late April Fools.

  9. juv3nal says:

    I honestly think it’s a good thing that Mr. Wright has been put out to pasture.
    It sounds like they’re giving him money to do whatever the hell he wants. If that’s being put out to pasture, sign me up.

  10. Cedge says:

    @Tei:
    Did you read the statement, or not?

    Anyways, did not see this coming. Probably for the best, because after Spore, I just can’t see that there was much left for him to do at Maxis.

    And regardless, it’s obvious that he’s still practically working for, or at least, very closely with EA, so, yeah. I hope people don’t misinterpret this, because it’s not exactly him being “put out to pasture.” Not by a longshot.

  11. An Innocuous Coin says:

    Lucky. Little sad whatever they put out is likely to be stretched out into dozens of expansion packs, though.

  12. skizelo says:

    So… Will Wright no longer has to actually see his ideas to fruition? How long is it till EA start getting memoes like “SimPsychologist: Neurotic AI the player has to talk off a windowledge. Microphone enabled, users can upload their own psychosis”.

  13. El Stevo says:

    @An Innocuous Coin

    That would depend entirely on the nature of the stuff they come up with. The Sims concept lends itself really well to expansions. That doesn’t mean everything that comes out of Will Wright’s brain will do the same.

  14. Rich_P says:

    Sounds like a good deal for WW. I had always hoped that he would team up with some Maxis super-team and create SimCity 5, but it’s clear that game is long behind him.

    Anyway, Will said in some interview that after Spore was released, he wanted to focus on smaller projects that wouldn’t take years and years to reach fruition.

  15. Mo says:

    Notice how all of the old pioneers of gaming try to get back into hearts of gamers and usually crash and burn? Will Wright, John Carmack, Richard garriott, etc. I honestly think it’s a good thing that Mr. Wright has been put out to pasture.

    Wait, what?! Garriot maybe. Even then, Tabula Rasa reviewed well as I recall, or at the very least, you couldn’t fault it for a lack of novel ideas. But whatever, I’ll give you that one.

    John Carmack. Decided to write cell phone games for fun. Doom RPG becomes mobile GOTY, spins off into id mobile, making them tonnes of money. And yes, the Doom3 engine wasn’t all that, but read up on the technology behind id Tech 5. Say what you will about Rage, but the engine itself is like nothing else out there.

    Will Wright. The Sims is an amazing game, and us “hardcore gamers” (or whatever) loved it until it became fashionable not to. Spore, in my mind, was a successful game. *You* might have not liked it, but calling it anything short of revolutionary is simply not understanding the scope of the game. Spore and LittleBigPlanet are leading the way for creative gameplay. Very much looking forward to seeing what comes of that.

    So yeah, Will Wright passed his prime? No way. I reckon he’s just getting started.

  16. fulis says:

    There were a lot of whispers of big internal fights over Spore’s design and we all know how it turned out

    By the end of it I don’t think there was very much left of WW’s game there. At the end he wasn’t even the one talking about it, it was Lucy Bradshaw

  17. Optimaximal says:

    Now he’s gone, its down to EA to churn out mindless sequels and expansions to The Sims because there’s no creative talent to evolve the series…

    Oh, wait!

  18. Jim Rossignol says:

    It may well be that Wright’s greatest talents don’t actually lie in game creation, but in forward-thinking game-blather that spurs other people into creativity.

  19. jalf says:

    Spore, in my mind, was a successful game. *You* might have not liked it, but calling it anything short of revolutionary is simply not understanding the scope of the game.

    Eh, I agree with your point in general, but Spore wasn’t all that revolutionary. The ideas behind it were, but in the end result, they neatly filtered out all those actually *new* ideas. We were left with 5 conventional games, and some clever creature editors which had essentially no impact on the actual game.

    It was revolutionary back during development, when the design of your creature actually mattered. In the final game, though, it was just as a matter of stats. Stats that had nothing to do with your actual design. More or longer legs did not make your creature faster. The size of your creature had no effect on toughness, strength or anything else. Nothing about the design of your creature mattered. They were onto some really unusual (perhaps even revolutionary) ideas… And then they decided to drop them.

    That doesn’t make Spore a failure, of course, but calling it “revolutionary” is definitely an overstatement.

  20. Mo says:

    Nevermind all the science stuff.

    The ideas of “videogame actively encouraging creativity” and “players populating other players worlds” are huge. Like I said, Spore and LittleBigPlanet are leading the way for this movement.

    Moreover, I could be wrong, but Spore is the first game with this big a budget to make such extensive use of procedurally generated content.

    All big, revolutionary ideas in my mind. I don’t know why everyone gets so hung up over the science aspect. Probably because “hardcore gamers” aren’t very creative. That’s probably why casuals are having tonnes of fun with Spore.

  21. Chiablo says:

    Spore suffers from the Molyneux Syndrome: It was overpromised and overhyped. The game that they sold us is not necessarily the game we got. And to defend him by saying that he had little to do with it at the end is bollocks. It’s his name that is directly attached to the game title, so it’s HIS game.

  22. pepper says:

    Exactly Jim, he is being paid to come up with the craziest idea that dont resemble a design document in a any way, more a theme or setting to build a game into. How that is to be done is not his worries. He is one of those people that love coming up with idea’s. So its quite smart to give the guy a bunch of money and see what he comes up with.

    One thing, i find it kinda disturbing that people write of a game designer after one “bad” game in there opinion.

  23. Serondal says:

    From what I’ve read here WW isn’t JUST making up game ideas for entertainment in general so he might one day make some new movie idea the next day a new game and next day a new type of I-pod that gives you a handy J while you’re listening to music who knows.

    Personally I think WW has lead the way to the dumbing down of video games for the masses. That may not have been his intent, but he was certainly used by EA as a blunt tool to beat all the complexity out of gaming.

    I look to devs like Tarn Adams and the one making Evochron to fight back against this trend. I see my brother in law (my wife’s husband) playing little big planet and gigglign like a retard and just sigh. He’s NOT a gamer, he’s an idiot and thinks he’s hard core because he shelled out for a PS3 and Little big planet.

  24. Rich_P says:

    Yes, curse the unwashed masses for having fun playing videogames! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ascend my gaming throne and play Dwarf Fortress while the plebs busy themselves with Halo 3 and LBP.

  25. Pijama says:

    Spore: obviously awesome and great idea that worked in principle (Content Creation)…

    …Which failed massively in it’s execution (Gameplay).

    Still, I am glad it was done. Procedural content might be the way to go, after all.

  26. Mo says:

    lol @ Serondal. Everything wrong with gamers is encapsulated in that post.

    Also, I think it would be incorrect to assume that WW is simply an “ideas guy”. His concepts are always very mechanism/simulation oriented. I’d say his games are very “toy” oriented as opposed to “goal” oriented. While some may see this as a short-coming, it’s the very appeal of the games produced at Maxis.

  27. Pstonie says:

    I’m betting it’s just to think up new ways of screwing over gamers. Creativity is too hard, especially if you’re EA.

  28. Serondal says:

    @ Rich_P , you have a point I may have gotten carried away a bit. I suppose I should expect this to be the way things go from now on. There are more drive by gamers then hardcore gamers and that is where the real money is. When it comes to consumers there is no quality, only quantity.

    @ Pijama & Mo – Maybe we should think of Spore more like Mario Bros. It wasn’t the best platform game ever made, but it lead the way for better ones to come after it. Maybe Spore is just the first game of this type and even though it isn’t very good it could lead to much better games in the future that take the idea and turn it into somethin enjoyable.

  29. espy says:

    He’s a great speaker and rather good at presentations. Well worth it:

    http://kotaku.com/359925/will-wright-gets-all-brainy-on-drunk-audience

  30. RagingLion says:

    I’ve got to agree with Rich_P there re. Serondal’s comment. We don’t have the right to dismiss others who play games differently to us and who don’t ‘get’ games as they were intended to be treated (though I admit it could grate on me if they miss the true worth behind a game I love). It’s great that games have opened up the mainstream since games should be able to engage with more people, they just won’t be the kind of games that the average RPS reader is always into. There’ll be a greater segmentation of the gaming market as we progress and hopefully developers will also continue to push the boundaries in the way the ‘hardcore gamer’ loves.

    Hopefully we’ll see many innovative idea come from WW in the future. Though I wonder if he’ll go off the radar a bit with this move.

  31. Serondal says:

    WW Won’t be off the radar until he’s been dead for some number of years. I think he enjoy standing up in front of people and talking about games as much as making them, and I must admit I enjoy listening to him.

  32. Tei says:

    Complex vs Hard:

    KISS: is a engineering phrase for 40+ years. But ELHM is another one relevant: Easy to Learn, Hard to Master.

    Good games, like Quake3, can be easy to learn (you move, and shot things) but takes years to master. Bad games like Sporte, have no replay value at all.

    Is like movies. Good classic movies, are these you want to watch mode than once. Bad movies.. you only watch then once, and forget about then.

  33. RagingLion says:

    @Serondal – no worries if you just think you got carried away a bit.

  34. Serondal says:

    I thought KISS was that flithy paper doll thing that people turned into weak a pron source? I get your point though, a game like Quake 3 or counter strike is easy to learn but hard to be good at. Just because you could fly the ship in Elite doesn’t mean you could get any where. It just seems to me cames could be getting more and more complex and interesting while at the same time making it easier to understand that complexity. Eve for example is pretty complex but it easy to get into, if only the community weren’t so cut throat ;P

  35. Gap Gen says:

    Done well, this could be a very good idea. There needs to be some kind of lab that experiments with crazy ideas so that innovation is easier to do without falling on your face commercially.

  36. Nimic says:

    I always find it funny when people talk about this whole “it’s all about stats” regarding actually creating creatures. While I agree somewhat, the example that gets used the most is that “more legs doesn’t translate into faster creature”, which is a rubbish argument. How is “more legs = faster” any different from “better legs = faster”? For that matter, it’s a silly thing in the core of it; since when does more legs = more speed in reality? It’s a game, and in the end it’s always about stats.

  37. Tim says:

    After the first few sentences of reading this in google reader, I had to double check I wasn’t reading Hardcasual.

  38. Serondal says:

    More legs was never going to equal faster creature. When Spore was first talked about the speed of the creature was going to be set up based on leg position and gait. So you had to actually think about how you were going to build the legs and have them set up so that the creature could run smoothly instead of waddling or something. WW never said more legs = faster creature.

    I can understand why they changed it when they clearly stated in the start of the project they wanted to make an editor that anyone could use. One where you could do anything you want and your creature would still work. They said they didn’t want to make you feel stupid just because you tried something new, they hated games where it was always saying “no you can’t do this” So the way it is NOW fits that vision perfectly. You can make pretty much anything you can think of to a certain degree and anyone can use it , anyone at all.

    Back to topic though I do think this is an interesting move for WW, hopefully something good will come from it.

  39. Rei Onryou says:

    Surprising, but I see this as having big benefits in the long run. He could have stayed at Maxis doing this job, but its now an offshoot company. He can do what he wants with his ideas. He can hire other creative thinkers. He can hire procedural programmers or lateral-thinking programmers like Eskil Steenberg.

    All in all, he can now do rapid prototyping with a budget to research and explore. Effectively, that’s how Spore started; he had a small group playing with procedural generation, before it expanded into the game it is now. Big things will hopefully come from this.

    Conversely, does this mean that Maxis will be completely absorbed and broken down, or will they maintain their autonomy for future Sims/Spore titles?

  40. jalf says:

    More legs was never going to equal faster creature. When Spore was first talked about the speed of the creature was going to be set up based on leg position and gait. So you had to actually think about how you were going to build the legs and have them set up so that the creature could run smoothly instead of waddling or something. WW never said more legs = faster creature.

    True, and that’s exactly what I’m missing from Spore. It no longer matters *how* your creature is designed *at all*. Of course what they have now is easier to use, yes, but it’s also completely irrelevant. It has become a glorified portrait chooser.

    But you’re right, the “more legs” thing is nonsense in general. The example I was thinking of was that you can make a blob with no legs at all, and it’ll move just as fast as a 2- or 4-legged creature. It was a bad example in the general case though. But the position and length of said legs, the gait, the design of the torso and so on certainly should influence your creature’s capabilities. It’s late, I was tired and didn’t really think my example through.

    But removing this aspect of Spore also took away all that was unique about it. You no longer design your own creature, you just level it up and assign points to various stats like we’ve done in RPG’s for two centuries. That may make it easier to use the editor, but it also invalidates any claim of “being revolutionary”, at least gameplay-wise. In terms of graphics, it’s a different story, of course.

    By the way, isn’t it odd that when he first announced Spore, it was all “the Sims approach doesn’t scale, we can’t keep employing 100′s of artists for years to fill in all the items, textures, models and so on. We have to do it programmatically”. And he then goes on to hiring 100′s of programmers instead, and taking at least as long to develop the game as the Sims took… :p

    So much for cost saving. ;)

  41. Jia says:

    Surprising, but what’s even more surprising is how the official website for Stupid Fun Club looks like something a high school kid cranked out after taking an intro to Flash class. But then, knowing Will Wright, maybe that’s exactly what happened…

  42. jackflash says:

    Isn’t coming up with great game ideas and then giving them to EA sort of like finding great treasures and then boxing them up in crates and then putting them in that big warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark?

  43. Mo says:

    Good games, like Quake3, can be easy to learn (you move, and shot things) but takes years to master. Bad games like Sporte, have no replay value at all.

    Why do games have to be challenging to be good? Why do they have to be mastered at all? Spore isn’t about being the “best” Spore player ever. It isn’t about being mastered. It’s about the player being creative. In this regard, it’s infinitely replayable.

    Is it so hard to understand that while Spore may not appeal to you, it is still a good game?

  44. MultiVaC says:

    What is that? A think tank?

  45. ChampionHyena says:

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I love Will Wright. Hell, I’ve been playing SimCity, in some form or another since… hmm… age five? Someone earlier compared him to Peter Molyneux, but that does Will and his ability to speak without it coming from his own ass a disservice.

    Jim’s right, Will Wright never struck me as a “developer” the same way other big names did. He was just the idea guy, and sometimes this had repercussions. Whatever you’d care to say about the Sims, few can claim they actually didn’t have FUN with it. We lambaste it now for its astonishing sales (horror of horrors, we can’t ever be seen playing a game for the proles), but it seems the things fundamentally wrong with Will Wright’s games–like, for example, the endless stream of overpriced, horse-corpse-whippingly pointless Sims expansion packs–doesn’t come from the guy himself, but through the thick layer of bureaucratic BS that tends to pervade an operation as large (and as profitable) as EA.

    Lots of complaining about Spore in these comments. Can’t say I’m surprised. I was disappointed too. But the failings of Spore don’t feel to me like Will Wright’s failings. They seem like the result of his creativity–a little too big for its britches in this case, I must admit–being forced through the wringer of corporate reality. So I’m glad he’s distancing himself from EA as much as he is. I’m a little worried that EA has such a massive stake in the think tank, and if it’s true that they’re the ones who will get the rights to develop games from his ideas… well, I don’t know how much will actually change. But all in all, this strikes me as a Good Thing. I want this guy’s ideas to have room to breathe.

  46. Rich_P says:

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I love Will Wright.

    Same here. SimCity 2000 is the reason I started playing PC games. (Jim wrote a nice retrospective on SimCity 2000 back in January ’08, btw)

    Wright is definitely an ideas man. He started obsessing about ants, so he made a game about them. He started reading about SETI and the Drake Equation and astrobiology, so he made a game about that. Who the hell knows what he’ll come up with next, but I’m looking forward to it.

  47. Billzor says:

    Did the Hivemind ever read “Smart Bomb?” That had a big section on Will Wright and I can remember coming away from it thinking “Wow, mad scientists DO exist.” I’ll be interested to see if what comes out of this think tank will be game stuff at all.

  48. MultiVaC says:

    I actually don’t really like the sound of this. Sounds like Will Wright is going to work full time to come up with great ideas which EA will harvest and process into lobotomized money making schemes. He’ll be even further divorced from his ideas, and they’ll go though the EA machine where focus groups will suck all the exciting ideas out and leave an empty husk to be sold to the mass market. Like Spore, only much, much worse.

  49. Dreamhacker says:

    A Will Wright think-tank? Good idea.
    EA rights-to-game-concepts? Bad idea.

  50. pepper says:

    Yeah its bad EA could get hands on these idea’s god forbid they’d actually make a good game!

    People whine EA only makes games for the masses, now that they gave a guy money to do crazy stuff its still not enough for people..