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.