EA Shuts Down SimCity Developer Maxis

EA Shuts Down SimCity Developer Maxis

EA has shut down Maxis Emeryville, the main Maxis studio and longrunning developer behind SimCity and Spore, among other games. Though the Maxis brand will carry on, the studio that most people knew as "Maxis" is no more.

"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," an EA representative said in a statement.

The news comes smack in the middle of the Game Developers Conference, where developers from across the world are congregating in San Francisco for various meetups, lectures, and sessions. It's poor timing, to say the least.

I've been hearing rumblings about a shake-up at Maxis for a few days now, but official word first came this afternoon from former Maxis designer Guillaume Pierre, who wrote on Twitter this afternoon that the studio would be shutting down:

Later in the afternoon, EA confirmed plans to shut down Maxis Emeryville, sending over the following statement:

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.

Originally founded in 1987, Maxis was best known for the Sim franchise, which began with Will Wright's SimCity and expanded to include a number of other games, including the popular The Sims series, which is handled by a separate developer called The Sims Studio.

In 2013, Maxis released an online reboot of SimCity that was plagued with all sorts of problems, which may have been what led to this final closure. Neither SimCity nor the recent release of The Sims 4 performed very well, according to a person familiar with goings-on at the studio.


    Gee EA destroying another studio. Sounds like business as usual.

    So when can we expect a group of the Maxis' guys to start a new studio and launch their Kickstarter for the spiritual successor to Sim City?

      to be honest I would be ok with that

      NO! NO! NO!

      I think I can speak for everybody when I say "Hurry up with Spore 2!"

        Considering how disappointing Spore was, I can definitely say you do not speak for everyone.

          I thought Spore was actually pretty awesome! Could definitely be better, but still awesome.

        And get it right this time.
        And by get it right, I mean "Give us more options and make the space end game good."

      I bet EA still owns all the SimCity names and trademarks, and would sue the living crap out of 'em for even hinting at a game where you build cities

        With careful legal positioning I'm sure they'd be fine. The big problem with making their own city-builder would be if the devs had signed a non-compete clause in their contracts.

        Considering there are a number of games already around that are city builders that EA can't touch, seems unlikely.

    How much of SimCity's problems were caused by EA demanding stuff like 'always online' and what have you?

      Exactly this. Fuck you EA, all that work you did recently to try and regain any credibility in the eyes of you consumers has just gone belly-up with this action. Sim City was one of the best game series on PC and you drove it into the ground with shit we didn't ask for.

      I worry for DICE and Criterion being slaves to this kind of corporate, soul-eating behemoth.

        Well, Criterion is only a handful of people after the studio was split. The majority of the developers were moved over to Ghost Games to work on Need For Speed full time.

        Assuming they don't just close it down, I wouldn't be surprised to see a smaller more experimental game come out of Criterion next.

      was going to say the same thing.
      EA: Do this and this and that and make sure it can do something else too
      Maxis: err, don't really want to but if I must
      EA: All of the things we told you to make it do failed, it is your fault that nobody liked our changes to the recipe, we are closing you down.

      It should be noted that this reasoning is pure speculation on the author's part. There's no actual evidence to suggest that this is the reason EA shut the studio down. Yeah, Sim City was a dog's breakfast in regards to the always online debacle amongst other things, but there's no evidence to suggest that a) All of those "bad" decisions were demanded by EA and b) That this is the reason for the closure. If it IS the reasoning, yes it's a pretty dick move, but we can't be sure if it is or not.

      For all we know, they shut the studio down simply because it was becoming too expensive to run (not an uncommon thing to happen).

      Unlike many other studio closures that leave employees high and dry, it looks like EA have offered to transfer them to other studios, and if they can't or don't want to transfer to help them out. It's really just the name and the physical studio itself that's gone. Many employees that worked there look like they'll continue to kick on, and may even continue working on the Sims IP.

        There's no smoking gun for EA meddling, and I'm sure everyone who outright said there was no official directive is probably telling the truth. But you'd have to be extremely fucking naive to think that EA's corporate culture moving toward exploiting online social features and DLC revenue wasn't in the wind and influencing development. Maxis is an EA studio. They know who their masters are.

          the thing is, DOING that fit's EA's established Behavioural pattern. the Company's Culture is obsessed with short-term profit at the cost of the long term, and they've Destroyed almost Every Franchise and Studio they've acquired over the years, or, less Hyperbolically, a abnormally large number of their acquisitions change radically after they purchase them, bomb, and are quietly shelved.
          im at the point of wondering why ANY studio would accept a buyout offer, let alone their shareholders, as by now almost everyone knows that acquisition by EA will KILL a franchise.

      I'm going to go with a conservative number, so 70%.

    I'm curious to see how well the new "Cities Skylines" turns out because it appears to have everything SimCity was missing. Plus the starting price is much more reasonable which is great.

      I'm curious too, reluctant to pre-purchase any game so I'll be watching gameplay/reviews when it's out.
      Fingers crossed it's awesome!

        Yeah same. Will keep an eye on the reviews first before I decide to pick it up.

          There are already playthroughs that you can watch.
          Looks very promising judging from them.
          Also, GOG has a preorder discount.

    Anyone want to start a pool on the next developer EA runs into the ground?

      Can't it ever be the developers fault that they got closed down ?

        Of course it can be. When they're owned by EA however, it's not the most likely scenario.

        I'm sure it can be, but in this particular case, all of the bad press, negative reviews and so on were all targeted at aspects of the game that would be something a publisher had a direct hand in. The one exception I suppose would be small city size in Sim City.

        EA and Maxis both claimed that Sim City's disastrously ill-advised mandatory online component and its unwanted social-dependence features were Maxis' idea and not EA's, but I find it very difficult to believe, given the comments from EA's then-CEO along the lines of 'we're never going to greenlight another single-player game' and the very well-known fondness of EA for supporting continuous, post-sale purchases.

        Even if there was never an explicit directive, I find it incredibly difficult to believe an elevator conversation didn't go something along the lines of, "How's your budget? Tight? Well that's a shame. You know, the execs are really interested in always-online at the moment. I think that kind of project would get the execs very excited."

        Last edited 05/03/15 11:09 am

      PopCap. You could already see it with Garden Warfare.

    I wonder what Maxis would have gone on to do if they never signed with EA :(

    SimCity 2013 was one of the keenest purchases I'd made in a long time. Totally turned me off city builders.

    Controversial statement time: I really liked that oft-berated SimCity!

      You aren't alone. I didn't mind it either.

        Same. But it got repetitive quickly. The small maps was the real killer, not the online-only component.

      I really liked it too! It's actually super fun, and I've spent so many hours playing it. Considering getting the Cities of Tomorrow expansion actually - it's only $10 at the moment on Origin.

      My only problem with it is that the block sizes are quite small. But other than that, I've never had any other problems with it. :/

      I enjoyed it for the brief time I did play it. I got into it after seeing Yuutho's videos on YouTube. I was always into the aesthetic side of SimCity and it was pretty cool what you could do with the base game.

    RIP Maxis.

    To the EA killing fields you go ...

      And this is why I hate the large publishers.

        Yeah, small publishers have never shut studios down.

        Last edited 05/03/15 10:56 am

          EA are worse than most. http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/03/an-updated-list-of-studios-ea-has-bought-and-then-shut-down/

            I don't deny that EA have shut a lot of studios down.

            What I'm challenging is the notion that only the big publishers - your EAs, Activisions and Ubisofts shut studios down. Small publishers very much do as well (but obviously the big players will shut down more because they have more in total).

    I...don't know how to play Sim City. It's my biggest blind spot I suppose.

    "All employees impacted by the changes today will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA"

    Pretty sure thats corporate speak for "they're all fired, but could totally apply for other jobs around if they want more of us"

      "They're all fired, but they are able to take lower paying jobs with less perks working on our micro-transaction games. What do you mean, that's a waste of talent? Talent? Is that something that can be measured on a profit/loss statement? No? Ok, so that's why I don't know that word."

      Nah, I reckon it's more likely that they'll operate similar to the way we do in Government. If you're a permanent employee and your area shuts down due to reorganization, they try to find vacant roles at your level.

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    This is totally EA's MO: Demand the impossible from a developer, when they can't deliver (or EA sticks their nose in and fucks everything up), wait for the the furore/attention to die down, then when no one is looking, put a bullet in the back of the developer's head. EA's foundation is built on the backs of dead studios, and no one at EA proper has learned a single lesson since the 90s, which is why we see this happen every few years.

    It's such poor timing. Like, all those devs are in town enjoying GDC and then this bomb hits. Boourns, EA.

    Sims 4 and Sim City were partial successes, imo they fell flat and I'm not surprised by this from EA.

    Perhaps marketing PR is to blame for all the DRM/FreaturesMovingToDLC issues these titles had but in the end doesn't matter.

    Damn. I mean... obviously 2013's Sim City was an abomination, an unmitigated disaster, and as much as I like the Sims, it's hard to get on the hype train for the pretty-but-hamstrung Sims 4 yet.

    But I really have to wonder how much of the catastrophic design failure was thanks to Maxis faithfully following the 'strategic direction' laid down by EA's 'market-exploitation visionaries'.

    And by strategic direction I mean,: a plugin framework to support a rapid and sustainable not-quite-a-subscription trickle of DLC, and mandatory (and VERY unwanted) online social features to improve peer-pressure sales tail and curb piracy.
    (ie: Things which are great for publishers and terrible for consumers.)

    There may never have been any smoking gun memo from EA to Maxis saying, "Change what you're doing to make it fit our intrusive, exploitative practices," but they were an EA studio. They know the culture. And Frank Gibeau very famously said that they were never going to greenlight another single-player-only game. You want a budget, you don't have to work too hard to see where the EA exec's wind was blowing.

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    RIP Maxis.

    *Celebrates the life of Maxis by installing SimCity 2000.*

    Still hoping for a new Sim Ant!!!!!

      I was really hanging out for a SimCopter reboot. That game was the bomb. Putting out fires while blasting Ride of the Valkyries... fantastic stuff. As a tech-reliant game though, it has NOT aged well.

      Last edited 06/03/15 2:13 pm

    Shutting down of another studio
    For ea games, it was tuesday

    Woah, what? Oh, really? This just bums me out. Another corpse for the pile.

    There's only so many bridges EA can burn; it's isolating itself on an island to the point the only thing left to burn is itself & we'll happily dance in it's ashes.

    Goodbye EA. Good Riddance.

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