It’s A Sim: EA Closes Sims/SimCity Developer Maxis

In memoriam

Oh man, this is a sad day. Former staff today reported – later confirmed by EA – that the heart of Maxis, the studio behind The Sims & Sim City, is to be ripped out. While satellite studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne remain, the Emeryville headquarters was Maxis as we knew it. It’s had a chequered recent history, particularly with regard to the most recent SimCity, but without a doubt this was a legendary developer.

Here’s the EA statement, sent to Kotaku:

“Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to our studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne locations as we close our Emeryville location. Maxis continues to support and develop new experiences for current Sims and SimCity players, while expanding our franchises to new platforms and developing new cross-platform IP.

These changes do not impact our plans for The Sims. Players will continue to see rich new experiences in The Sims 4, with our first expansion pack coming soon along with a full slate of additional updates and content in the pipeline.

All employees impacted by the changes today will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA. For those that are leaving the company, we are working to ensure the best possible transition with separation packages and career assistance.”

No reason for the closure is given there, but these things almost always come down to money. Staff who’ve been with Maxis for over a decade shared the news on Twitter, with lead gameplay scripter and 13-year Maxis veteran Guillaume Pierre revealing that “everyone’s out of a job.” What EA’s claim that staff “will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA” actually entails remains to be seen. The Redwood Shores studio isn’t too far away if anyone can land places at it (and if they even want to), but all the others would involve massive upheaval.

Despite the references to Maxis ongoing in some capacity, many are today treating this as a wholesale loss of the studio first founded in 1987 by Will Wright and Jeff Braun. It was born in Emeryville, California and died in Emeryville, California, and by God I’m downcast about this. Surely few would believe that the shortcomings in SimCity were not driven by cold business decisions from above, and while The Sims 4 was perfectly serviceable in most regards, it’s a crying shame that Maxis didn’t get the chance to truly soar again before the axe fell.

Big hugs and best of luck to everyone affected by this. Whatever wobbles it might have had, Maxis is as iconic a PC games developer as we’ve ever had. This is a big loss.

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73 Comments

  1. sharkh20 says:

    EA is the king of acquiring studios and running them into the ground.

    • April March says:

      Activision was a strong pretender for a while, but EA really stepped up their game.

    • mtomto says:

      I am pretty sure Maxis was to blame for their own undoing here. They had 2 MEGA brands and the last iterations of those both tanked. On paper the games sound great, but the final product was abysmal.

      Simcity IS fun, but only for 4-6 hours when you are done with the map. This is a pretty big turnoff that should have had alarms going on everywhere in development. Oh, and poor simulation in general.

      The Sims is pretty much the same as the previous sims, but back to scratch without all the DLC. Ahh, and the silly thing about loadscreens everywhere. Wanna visit your neighbour? Gotta go though a loadscreen. hmmmm

      Both games deliver the bare minimum of what people would expect from a new Sims or Simcity. Too many designers and too few real geeky cellar codemonkeys.

      Wouldn’t you be excited for both games if it was pitched on paper to you? I would. Maxis sucks… end of story.

      • Cinek says:

        Let’s not forget Spore – game that took ton of money and effort to develop, then another 2 tons to promote, and ended up being completely underwhelming. Then they tried to make a spinoff with a Dark Spore – which came out to be even worse.

        Maxis really got a series of failures.

        • Baines says:

          Wasn’t Dark Spore the game that ended its life in an unplayable state for new players, yet continued to remain for sale on both Steam and Origin even though EA and Maxis both knew it would not be fixed. With Valve eventually stepping in to pull the game from Steam, while EA continued to sell it on Origin for several more months.

        • Jherad says:

          Oh man. Those early presentations and tech demos of Spore were amazing. I could have cried when that cartoony mess was released instead :/

      • LintMan says:

        @mtomto:

        I think most people would argue that the worst of SimCity’s flaws were driven by mandates from EA to make a historically single-player franchise into a multiplayer online-only game. I doubt the SimCity devs would have chosen that route if not drivn by EA corporate policymakers.

        • Rindan says:

          Online only wasn’t the most fatal flaw. It was a flaw, but there are lots of games that are needlessly online that do just fine. Online only was certainly a vocal flaw, and something I hated, but it was not the worst sin.

          The worst sin of Sim City, easily out passing all other flaws by a few orders of magnitude, was not giving a FUCKING CITY BUILDING GAME. If they had called it Sim Town, it would have been acceptable. Instead, they called in SIm City and seemed to be under the delusion that cities are about a square kilometer big. Why the bloody fuck you would SHRINK the game from Sim City 4 by a few orders of magnitude is utterly beyond me. Never in the history of city building games has anyone said, “it sure would be swell if I was forced to make my cities smaller, I really hate making big sprawling metropolitan areas!”

          I honestly don’t fucking understand what is so hard for city build game makers to understand. The two killer features are, in order, make it big, make transportation interesting and work. That is it. Do those two things and you are a solid 90% of the way there. No one wants cute little sims to follow. You don’t need to individually simulate every person (though bonus points if you do). Just make it big, convince me that your traffic model isn’t fucked up, and give me lots of traffic options.

          Sim City was such a horrible mess. It showed a complete and utter lack of understanding of what people wanted. The online only stuff was just the shit cherry on top.

          I feel bad for the people that lost their job, and I gush nostalgia when I hear the Maxis name because I played damn near every single Sim game they ever made, but Maxis has been dead to me for a while. I am almost kind of glad to see it just be made official. Maybe it will free up a little air for the new kids to breath without having to be constantly terrified that Maxis will drop a Sim game and suck the air out of the room.

          I’m looking at you Skylines. Don’t give me a sad. Grab the mantel and show Maxis how it is done.

          • ansionnach says:

            Been a while since I laughed quite as much at a post. Amazing how many sequels get away with not being bigger and better these days. A lot of games have gotten so much smaller that they’re heavily-scripted and beautifully-rendered corridor sequences. Almost to the point where you might as well just watch a film instead (where you’d find just as much “gameplay”), except not the more and more common kind of film that’s effectively two hours of non-interactive game cutscenes, only stupider.

            Possibly why some of the guys behind games like Sim City just don’t get it.

            Big-name games will always have a certain amount of allure, but we’ve come a long way from the day when many of these games were challenging and required more than a couple of brain cells (Ultima, Wing Commander, Syndicate, Eye of the Beholder, Sim City 2000, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, X-Wing, Baldur’s Gate 2).

      • mattlambertson says:

        You guys are smarter than to blame Maxis for development choices that were clearly foisted upon them by EA, giving them impossible release targets and forcing them to focus on features that can be monetized rather than features that make a good game. Don’t diss Maxis for not being superhuman enough to wade through the mire of EA upper management expectations AND still make as well-rounded games as they did before the dark times.

        • mtomto says:

          Cities Skylines seems capable of doing better and more than Simcity – even with a smaller team. How can you justify that?

          • oyog says:

            You justify it by noticing Skylines’ publisher, Paradox, isn’t forcing the development team’s hand on anything. EA, as a publisher, forces it’s studios to make games that will cater to the lowest common denominator. When that studio makes a piece of shit they can’t point the finger at their publisher so they have to justify their terrible game by saying “We designed it that way.”

            I’m not saying every decision Maxis made on Sim City was the result of EA being their publisher, I’m just asking you to consider it as a possibility.

        • Baines says:

          Maxis chose to do an agent-based simulation that would get rid of the “smoke and mirrors”, despite their system being ill-suited for the scale of city building that people wanted and expected. Maxis chose new smoke and mirrors approaches to attempt to handle some of those shortcomings. Those are things that directly led to SimCity being a poor city sim that likely had little involvement from EA.

          As for online, that isn’t a cut-and-dried “EA did it” situation. I don’t believe we’ve had anyone speaking off the record about it. While anything on the record is highly questionable for being PR, officially Maxis was behind the online requirement as well as the alleged power of the cloud.

          As for forcing the game’s release, well haven’t we recently had a similar discussion from the other side with Peter Molyneux? It is the publisher’s job to get a game out within some measure of an acceptable budget and on some measure of an acceptable time frame. It is easy to side with devs against evil publishers, but at some point the dev studio does need to take some of the responsibility for a rushed/broken game. Consider also Gearbox with Aliens Colonial Marines, stringing both consumers and Sega along for years, then acting innocent when they ran out of extensions and had to get something shipped.

          And while people like to recite Miyamoto’s quote about rushed and delayed games, it isn’t actually a given that a delayed game will eventually be good. Sometimes a game is just a money pit, or the people responsible for it just aren’t capable of delivering. Consider Godus, where the man with final say (Molyneux) was likely the biggest impediment to the game’s progress and quality. Or Duke Nukem Forever, where again the actions and decisions of the man in charge was the reason the game was pretty much doomed no matter how long it remained in development.

  2. Wisq says:

    Well, EA had already killed Maxis in all but name, so I guess this finally makes it official.

    SimCity was the first game I ever bought for PC. I’ll miss them for sure.

  3. Text_Fish says:

    Fucking typical. The fat cats make a series of terrible decisions re distribution/drm that hamstring a project and then fire the only people who contributed anything of worth to it. Spineless arseholes*

    *yes I know arseholes don’t have spines, but you get my point.

    • bv728 says:

      A couple of folks who were inside EA while is was in development (who hate the current regime) have stated that the whole online only thing was something Maxis convinced core EA to go along with, double down on, but then stripped 90% of the intended online features 3 months before launch but couldn’t cut the rest without a delay in ship. EA basically said ship it, this is your own fault.

      Until this fiasco, the Maxis leadership basically had carte blanche – not only would the EA Executive Silo wouldn’t intervene in their games for fear of screwing up the money printer, I’ve been told there were actually clauses in the contract about how much EA can intervene in their internal design decisions. Then Maxis shipped a massive, expensive flop that they’d spent a lot of time and effort convincing EA was perfectly okay as online only and needed a bunch of cash and development resources to get it to close to functional. This is basically EA killing the studio so they can move everything to studios that they can control more closely.

      • Mags says:

        If this is the case I would REALLY like to find out more.

        • airmikee says:

          So far I’ve found 3 articles about Maxis GM, Lucy Bradshaw, defending the online only aspect of the game and saying that offline play never fit into Maxis’s vision for the game. But so far I’m only able to view Google’s cached versions of those articles. Strange that they’re all supposedly inaccessible now.

          link to webcache.googleusercontent.com

        • airmikee says:

          link to cinemablend.com

          There’s one that actually works and makes clear ‘No Offline’ was an internal Maxis decision.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Then again how much can this be trusted because that person was responsible for all of the press releases before and shortly after the game that were repeatedly uncovered as complete lies which then saw PR backtracking multiple times.

          • mattlambertson says:

            Yeah, unless someone can confirm that “Lucy Bradshaw” is a longtime old-school Maxis employee from before the takeover, this is just as likely to be EA’s spin BS than the truth.

          • ansionnach says:

            Here’s your answer:
            link to sims.wikia.com

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        This… This is interesting.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      What exactly is your evidence that Maxis didn’t make those terrible decisions itself? Developers love to cry “the publisher made me do it” when things go wrong or are poorly received, but a lot fo the time you need a publisher to keep the game on scope, on budget, and entertaining. The development team can be too close to the project and not see its warts.

      Honestly people are way way too eager to absolve game makers of sin when projects fail. More likely than not when a project doesn’t work out it is mainly the developer’s fault, though of course sometimes it is also or solely (rarely) the publisher’s.

      • mattlambertson says:

        What exactly is your evidence that you are not receiving financial compensation from EA or an associated contractor thereof for making these posts? ;)

      • ansionnach says:

        Hard to say without firm evidence, but if it’s left to gut feelings people will blame EA. The truth is probably more complex than that, but it certainly fits the profile. Interfering EA management doublespeakers appeared as villains in Ultima VII: The Black Gate way back in 1992… and not much has happened since to change opinions for very long. There were one or two periods in which the company seemed to be trying to change its ways, but all the Origin, always-online, rip-off DLC bollocks that began circa Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2 (and has gotten progressively worse since) makes such efforts a distant memory.

  4. Premium User Badge

    X_kot says:

    Wonder how long Bioware has at this rate…

    • Guy Montag says:

      This was my first thought, as well. Sims 3 was a literal cash cow, that EA worked as hard as they could to milk dry. The ‘hiccup’ that was SimCity 2013 and the backlash that caused the purported dropping of development on the multiplayer focused Sims 4, giving them only a year or two to make the completed product we got is very, very reminiscent of Bioware issues with EA between and Dragon Age 1 and 2.

      Not that there are easy alternatives, but I really hope this detracts future developers from joining under EA. Mismanagement of this magnitude should matter.

      • Don Reba says:

        It certainly was not a literal cash cow. And you just made the rest of your analogy disgusting. >_<

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      My first thought was of/for Maxis (and all the name used to mean), but my second was of BioWare as well. I imagine they’ve got a few years left* before a similar fate; we have to think it’s coming, though. EA’s trail of once-great developer carnage stretches all the way to the horizon.

      *I don’t hold this opinion yet, but I realize some think EA has killed them already.

    • airmikee says:

      EA will keep BioWare alive as long as SW:ToR keeps making a profit. I haven’t seen anything about 2014, but that one game pulled in nearly $140 million in 2013 alone, and EA isn’t going to give up that revenue stream until the stream dries up.

      • James says:

        Very true. Bioware is puttin gout stuff that is highly profitable, which means more Mass Effect for us which means slightly less internet poo flung at them. I think they’ll be sticking around for as long as that reamins the case.

      • Premium User Badge

        X_kot says:

        As far as I know, only Bioware Austin is responsible for SWTOR. The company was partitioned just like Maxis; the headquarters is in Edmonton, which has been working on DA: Inquisition. The third studio in Montreal is heading up the next Mass Effect. The arm that used be Mythic was severed a few years back, so I suspect that each department has to pull its own weight or be dismantled. You hear that, DICE?

    • MuscleHorse says:

      Wasn’t DA3 a huge commercial success for them? Let alone being one of their best games in quite a while.

    • ansionnach says:

      Well, Maxis has only been The Sims to EA for quite a while. Since that “franchise” (I’ve grown to absolutely detest this word) can now be handled by The Sims Studio in Redwood, the Maxis part of Maxis was surplus to requirements. Turning our gaze to Bioware: the company’s games are nothing without good writing. That’s something that’s hard to rip-off. Best way to emulate this is to actually write something good (in which case, fair dues to you). The EA “studio” most similar to Bioware was probably Origin Systems. For all its flaws, Ultima VIII did feature some good writing… but it may have been better to release it as a different game entirely seeing how untrue to the series it was (I loved it at the time, knowing little of Ultima). There’s almost nothing good you can say about Ultima IX (other than the graphics were impressive at the time). Perhaps it’s a similar story to Maxis: new projects requiring a lot of risk weren’t paying off so they stuck with the cash-cow (Ultima Online in Origin’s case) that could be handled by Those of Lesser Inspiration. There’s no telling whether Bioware will ever fail in the same way… but if they ever produce a cash-cow that doesn’t require much effort or risk to keep ticking over, and some of their main-line projects fail successively, then the same management mentality will stick with the proven performer if he thinks he must pick between one or the other. Possibly similar to how Westwood became C&C and Bullfrog, whose unique games were less-suited to the EA stable, tried to make a “franchise” out of Theme Park.

      • ansionnach says:

        Must dig up the actual magazine, but I think PC Gamer had a bit of explaining to do regarding their “exclusive” Theme Park World review (and, I think score in the region of 90%). The PC Zone one arrived a while after the game was released and makes for humorous reading:
        link to archive.org

  5. newguy2012 says:

    I wish the people that lost their jobs the best! Sad to see another studio be gobbled up by EA.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      They were already gobbled, this is the spitting out part.

      • Kempston Wiggler says:

        I see it as the “finally digested and expelling the waste” part.

  6. Bansh says:

    Do EA not realise that splitting everything up between 4 other places is the opposite of consolidating something?

    • RedViv says:

      Not quite, when you have all those studios already participating in a lot of the projects through development on the graphical side and programming gruntwork.

  7. draglikepull says:

    Only a corporate bean counter could take an immensely profitable outfit and run it into the ground because they think they’ve found a way to squeeze just a little bit more profit out of it.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      What makes you think it was immensely profitable? Several of its recent projects have been failures. A movie or game that makes hundreds of millions of dollars can fail to make money if it and the associated marketing cost even more hundreds of millions of dollars.

  8. Dinger says:

    Okay, but just to throw in my Bay Area confusion, my befuddled memory from doing contract work on a few beloved titles in the late-80s for Mr. Braun somehow put them in Orinda. Mind you, my memory ain’t great. I couldn’t tell you whether EA was in Foster City or San Mateo at the time.
    Anyway, this is a huge loss. Maxis always had visionary titles, even if they didn’t sell: Robosport was unmatched until Frozen Synapse came out, and, well, showed why it was unmatched. SimEarth, SimAnt, Spore: these were games with great ideas that didn’t quite translate into fun. In Spore’s case, like with the last iteration of SimCity, it was no doubt EA’s corporate interference that pulled a great game into the inescapable doldrums of mediocrity. Now, no doubt, The Sims™ birds have come home to roost, as EA can’t make the game be the great free-to-play, pay-to-be-cool Facebook™/Twitter™ cashmachine they need to be competitive in the tablet area. So they’ve rightsized Maxis.
    It took me to my twenties to realize that the film company “United Artists” was established as a revolt against the studio system, for nothing they had produced in the fifty years since then suggested otherwise. EA was founded with a bit of the UA inspiration, and that lasted for two or three great years. The greatest hope that the PC games industry has is that these corporate behemoths don’t get a clue. Maxis may be dead, but at least those that got on early made bank. For the rest, I hope Karma will be kind.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I can only imagine the higher ups were to blame. I liked Spore, but in all honesty, the Alpha toys that came with my copy had more fun than the full game. To loose the “gameplay” between Alpha prototyping and release, means someone must have been cutting features (Will Wright?). :(

      • sharkh20 says:

        I doubt it was Will Wright since the whole thing was his idea in the first place. I’ve never seen someone so passionate in creating a simulation. Watching his original spore conference is still very entertaining. Considering that he left right after suggests that things didn’t go the way he wanted at all.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Yeah Sim Earth and Sim Ant (both of which I loved) were great in 1995. You cannot run and pay all those salaries just due to some past glory.

      Where were the similar titles from Maxis in the 2000s?

      • airmikee says:

        The entire ‘The Sims’ series and SimCity4 were all put out by Maxis in the 2000’s.

    • jrodman says:

      Orinda is so tiny, they can’t have stayed there that long once vidya games became a business that involved more than 10 or 20 people.

  9. Bob Barker says:

    Too bad they didn’t focus on making a successor to SimCity 4. Too small, too limited, too “The Sims”. It didn’t help that people like Arthur Gies/Polygon were vehemently defending SimCity by calling their limitations “features”.

  10. airmikee says:

    Maxis hasn’t put out anything worth playing since Will Wright left the company anyhow. This really won’t change much, it feels like EA is simply putting the nails in the coffin six years too late.

  11. Baines says:

    Hasn’t the heart of Maxis been long gone? People previously tended to mark the purchase by EA as the real death of Maxis. That was around 18 years ago. Were there even people from pre-EA Maxis still around for this closing?

  12. acheron says:

    I honestly thought this had already happened years ago. I thought EA shut them down and stopped using the name a long time ago, and recently brought back the name but I thought it was just an IP thing, using the name without any real connection. (Like the way random companies occasionally will start using the name “Atari” that they picked up at a garage sale.)

  13. sonofsanta says:

    And it was only the other day I was reading that article on Westwood Studios from the Sunday Papers, wherein EA were mentioned as admitting they’d messed up with Bullfrog and Westwood and that lessons had been learned and it wouldn’t happen again…

    Come to think of it, EA are responsible for quite a lot of our iconic developers being left out in the sun to shrivel up and die, aren’t they? What have they got against us? Is this because the PC killed the Amiga and thus killed Deluxe Paint?

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Another way to look at it is those beloved developers themselves are responsible because in almost all cases they took millions from EA in exchange for forfeiting control. No one can make you sell your company typically.

    • The Godzilla Hunter says:

      The Universe tends towards entropy. Every single studio that a publisher owns will close sooner or later. Every studio not owned by a publisher will close sooner or later.

  14. Synesthesia says:

    What a bunch of shits EA is. What a tragic day. I really loved everything maxis. Fuck.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Maxis of any worth has been dead since SimCity 4, possible before. Honeslty when that came out people were fairly disappointed with the way it worked. The traffic simulation sucked and the regions stuff did not work for a long while. Player made patches had to clean a lot of it up.

  15. Sucram says:

    Wait, what? Maxis! MAXIS. I know many of the key people have left but come on, how successful does a studio need to be to not get shut down.

    • Sucram says:

      Next you’ll tell me they are closing down Mythic, or Bullfrog or Westwood Studios or Origin.

    • airmikee says:

      Their last “success” was “The Sims 3″ from 2009, which technically wasn’t made by Maxis but by EA’s The Sims Studio which was only partly Maxis. Their last “successes” before that were “The Sims 2″ and “SimCity 4″ from 2004 and 2003 respectively. Since then everything has been a flop.. Spore, Sims 4, and the latest SimCity, and all those games flopped because of decisions made by Maxis, not EA.

      Will Wright left Maxis in 2009, coincidence that everything has been an utter disappointment since then?

  16. geldonyetich says:

    I am honestly a bit surprised. If the company that did the most to bend over backwards and accommodate EA’s policies can’t be kept afloat, nobody who works for EA is. Perhaps all the companies they absorbed should start running resumes or abandon ship to start indie studios.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Its EA, this is just the latest on the pile of mutilated bodies decomposing in their basement, pretty sure the finding a new job thing should be happening as soon as you hear your studio is being sold to them.

  17. Tayh says:

    After SimCity 2013 and and Sims 4, was there any hope left at all for Maxis?
    I mean, if that’s the kind of games they were going to be putting out, maybe it’s not such a big loss.
    Hopefully the talent can get quick employment elsewhere.

  18. celticdr says:

    Sad, sad news for a company that was once one of the greatest.

    I still remember all the fun I had with their early games, especially Simant which I played with my cousins on the Amiga 500 (building rock arenas with ants fighting each other and spiders like some sort of Roman insect spectacle was indeed a grand laugh).

  19. Ejia says:

    I’m still bitter over Westwood and Bullfrog, and I know it was only a matter of time, but it still feels sad.

    Well, their legacy is still strong, I suppose. SimCity 4 is still the best city builder out there, at least until I see Cities: Skylines for myself.

    But I actually enjoy The Sims 4. It feels like what a modern Sims 2 should be.

  20. johnny5 says:

    Maxis is an Electronic Arts LABEL and has been for years. Don’t white knight for “Maxis.” EA and Maxis are one in the same.
    link to ea.com

    The lies that came from EA and Lucy Bradshaw leading up to SimCity 2013 launch are unforgivable. Cloud computing, it would take years of reprogramming to play offline, it can’t be played offline, etc. etc. etc.

    As others have said, the games haven’t been good for many years. Hopefully this will lead to more simulation titles like Banished and Cities Skylines from smaller studios. In the long run, this closure might be a good thing.

  21. Premium User Badge

    Cross says:

    On the upside, i am looking forward to Maxis’ indie zombie studio launching a kickstarter to do a proper Simcity game. I really loved the ways Simcity 2013 strived to use cooperation to give the game more context and longevity. Under fan scrutiny, a revived studio might be able to do the concept more justice.

  22. Erithtotl says:

    Why don’t people blame Will Wright or Lord British or the founders of Bioware or the other companies that sold out in the first place? Will Wright cashed in and now EA is systematically destroying what he created, something ANYONE could have predicted.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      When you are a small but growing company, especially a software company in the 1980s and 1990s, sometimes you need investment capital. To get investment capital, you need to part with shares of your company. In established industries this makes sense. In an era before we know this to be absolutely 100% toxic in every known case for development studios, this seems to make sense.

      Game development is expensive. Really expensive. To make a game competently, you need to pay competent people. Some of those competent people may even have families, which makes them even more expensive.

      Back in the bad old days of PC retail, you needed a publisher. No, you needed a publisher. How else was your software going to be published? Websites were a thing for hobbyists and the nerdiest of CS professors and Steve Jackson Games and nobody else. No one was even considering using the HTTP protocol for commercial transactions. So you needed a publisher. So you’re dependent on the publisher to give you checks on time and in the right amounts and in the specific percentages agreed upon. And then when you go to the meeting to negotiate how much of your next game sales you’re going to get for yourself, the publisher knows you’re in a weak bargaining position, and they will negotiate accordingly.

      If we’re talking about the era retail game publishing, we’re talking about it being the publisher’s fault. It was always the publisher’s fault. In every case. Before the ability to self-publish, there was no alternative, so the publisher was going to do what the publisher thought was right for the publisher at the expense of the developer and sooner or later the dev studio has to decide whether to be bought out or whether to close shop. Because that’s what happened.

      Nobody chose to sell out. Not once. They sold out so that their friends could draw a salary for another year maybe hopefully. They sold out because the publisher had already gotten 1/3 of the shares and one of the guys who had a third wanted out so he sold his shares to the publisher as well. They sold out because the publisher wanted them to sell out and they couldn’t say no to the company they were entirely dependent upon.

      They sold out because the publishers never realized how bad the offer was in the long run, because as awful and ignorant as marketing executives are, if they could properly predict the future they would certainly not have sacrificed the long-term good of their business partners for such short term gains. For the most part, EA wasn’t even being malicious, it was just pig-headedly putting into practice what it thought worked in other industries. Despite what Richard Garriot thought, EA was not the devil. EA never intended to kill the golden geese. EA is simply run by people who are really terrible at taking care of geese.

  23. RegisteredUser says:

    I sincerely thought The Sims was one of the most profitable franchises in the business given the endless DLC and high addiction value in the customer base?
    I don’t get it and I would have loved a proper insightful tracking of both decisions, finances and sales figures.

    • ansionnach says:

      EA can continue to make Sims games – The Sims Studio is in Redwood and remains open. What has closed is the studio that was the original Maxis when EA bought them out.