Longtime development studio of the legendary Sim franchises Maxis was shut down today by parent company Electronic Arts. The news comes via several news outlets quoting designer Guillaume Pierre who tweeted about the shuttering of Maxis Emeryville.
Maxis Emeryville was the epicenter of Maxis, the studio that famed designer Will Wright opened in 1987, and recently developed 2013’s SimCity. Maxis also created EA tentpole franchise The Sims, which saw the launch of The Sims 4 last year. The Sims appears to be unaffected as The Sims Studio was created to handle development and support of the popular PC franchise. Additionally, word on whether the overseeing name of EA Maxis will be renamed after Maxis’ closure. EA Maxis had Maxis (Emeryville), The Sims Studio, EA Salt Lake and Maxis (Helsinski) under its umbrella.
SimCity (2013) saw modest success in initial sales and was trumpeted as having a ton of refinements and improvements to the 25 year old franchise, many rooted in cloud processing. But with the cloud processing came the caveat of an always online requirement, a “feature” that drew the ire of gamers and series fans. Coupled with a rocky launch that saw the online functionality broken and the game essentially unplayable, SimCity was quickly written off as a failed attempt at locking content to EA’s wallets. Even worse was that modders found ways to circumvent the online checks within the game and discovered that the cloud processing features were mostly unneeded resulting in many to conclude that the requirement was smoke and mirrors by EA to force online DRM.
Regardless of the fact that the writing was on the wall for Maxis, it is always a shame to hear of a studio’s closure, especially one with nearly 30 years of experience and multiple landmark titles including the original SimCity, SimCity 2000, Spore and The Sims. Hopefully somebody will carry the torch and we will continue to be able to drop tornadoes into our cities.
Kotaku – EA Shuts Down SimCity Developer Maxis
Back when SimCity came out early last year, critics and audiences ripped Electronic Arts and Maxis for being less than forthcoming about the game’s online requirements. What was visioned as a world of user controlled cities interacting symbiotically with one another in a persistent world was seen by players as an always online crutch, forced down their throats for a game that always crashed because the game’s servers were shot. Upset about not even having the option to build cities in the peace and quiet of their own office space, players clamored for an offline mode, which EA shot down as something that would require significant engineering to pull off.
Well nearly a year later, it seems that Maxis and EA have been up to significant engineering as SimCity is expected to be patched to include an offline mode soon. The move goes hand in hand with EA and Maxis seemingly attempting to extend an olive branch to their splintered fanbase as they had announced the addition of mod support earlier this week. Citing the long running positive community involvement of modders with Maxis games, the studio and publisher are desperately trying to save face for the once pristine SimCity brand.
As much as I believe that the addition of an offline mode will make SimCity an curious game, the constant fires being put out by EA and Maxis have essentially destroyed this iteration of SimCity. I’d be curious to experience the game in the controlled confines offline, but the entire time I would be thinking of how terrible the post launch handling was by the company. It will take a lot of time for audiences to forget the catastrophic launch of SimCity, here’s to hoping the legendary franchise makes a triumphant return.
Polygon – EA adding offline mode to SimCity
I get it. I really do. The gaming industry is exactly that; an industry. One can tout the artistic and technological merits of the gaming world all they want, but it is the consumer’s dollar that drives this industry. Remember that.
The publishers clearly have their eyes on our wallets and are looking to ensure that they are able to wring every possible cent out of a transaction. So much so that they view piracy as a legitimate threat.
image credit: digitalspy.com