Some of you will have heard of the recent, tragic news that EA has decided to close the main office of Maxis, the creators of the Sims series, the first game of said series remains to be one of the best-selling games of all time for the PC, and the SimCity series of games. After the major disappointment that was the 2013 version of SimCity, which was weighed down with it’s always online DRM, causing players to have to be online at all times during the playing of the game, which caused many people to be unable to play the game due to the servers quite literally dying for the first week of the game’s release. An offline mode for the game was, at the time of the its release, touted as “impossible” by Maxis, only to be added in a year later being followed up by Maxis’ General Manager saying that the offline mode will be “great for SimCity’s modding community” as well as other reasons which the community all said from the very outset of said DRM. Something tells me however that these issues were entirely Maxis’ ideas though, EA, the game’s publisher and Maxis’ parent company are known to put DRM practices like the one seen in SimCity in their games, as can be shown by Spore, a game also released by Maxis which contained heavy DRM which made users deal with online authentication every 10 days after installation in order to play the game as well as the fact that the game could only be activated on 3 different computers, which, after an extreme amount of complaints to both Maxis and EA, was raised to 5 computers. It seems that after the, quite frankly, failure of this version of SimCity, EA had had enough and decided to was finally time to put the old dog that is Maxis down. But this is just the latest in what I like to call EA’s serial killings of studios, as the method of each ones death is almost exactly the same…Acquire, drain and kill.
First, it was Origin Systems, creators of the Ultima and Wing Commanders series, back in 1992 who cancelled all of their future titles in 1999 and were completely shut down in 2004 after Ultima IX: Ascension succumbed to a poor reception by the series’ fans. Then, the Command & Conquer developer, Westwood Studios were next in 2003 after Command and Conquer: Renegade failed to reach the expectations of both EA itself and the series’ fans also. Then Bullfrog Productions, creators of such legendarily innovative games such as Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Populous and Magic Carpet, which propelled Peter Molyneux to the high heights of Microsoft game development with Lionhead Studios which caused the creation of the best-selling Xbox RPG series Fable, was merged with EA UK which was then merged with EA Bright Light in 2008, a studio which was sadly shut down in 2011. Then, it was Mythic Entertainment, creators of the MMORPGs, Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online who were shut down just last year after the creation of the most horrific, money-grubbing iOS remake of Dungeon Keeper, which took, quite literally, 24 hours to mine one block for 90% of the blocks in that game…unless you paid some of hard-earned cash you have just stored away on that credit card over there. The list goes on and on; Black Box Games who were shut down in 2013, EA Los Angeles was shut down in 2012, DICE Canada was shut down in 2006, Kesmai was shut down in 2001, EA Phenomic was shut down in 2013, EA Mobile (Brazil) was also shut down in 2013, EA Seattle was shut down in 2002…You get the picture. Oh, but let’s not forget Victory Games who were opened and closed by EA between 2010 and 2013 without making a single game, great use of three years’ worth of resources there, EA. Just keep in mind that that was 10 different studios that I just mentioned that have all been shut down and you may think that that’s them all? Oh no, there’s sill many more that I haven’t mentioned.
So with Maxis being added to this list, it can only cause people to wonder who the next studio who is on the chopping block of EA is and looking at all of their current studios, it’s between four different ones for me: Popcap Games, the creators of Peggle, Bejeweled and Plants Vs Zombies, Visceral Games, the creators of the Dead Space series and current developers of the upcoming Battlefield game, Hardline, Criterion Games, creators of the Burnout series or Ghost Games, the current lead developers of the Need for Speed series. All of these studios have shown signs of weakness in some form and, like a serial killer, that’s all EA needs to give them the ignition to shut that studio down with the click of a finger. Popcap fired 50 of its employees in the US and shut down its studio in Dublin in 2012 and Visceral’s last title, Dead Space 3 was riddled with a number of problems, including the game being very buggy at launch and unnecessary microtransactions being squashed in their for the sake of it leaving fans of the series a bit confused and upset with the latest entry to the series. Criterion Games currently only around 25 employees as of 2014 and Need for Speed: Rivals was met with less than favourable reviews from both fans and reviewers alike and Ghost Games had a very large amount of layoffs in their UK studio which caused them to put their newest Need for Speed Game on hold. If I were to hazard a guess at which of these 4 companies is the most likely to be the next in EA’s serial killings, I’d say it’s probably Criterion…To be honest, the company is a shell of what it once was and their next project, a driving game involving wingsuits, ATVs and Helicopters seems highly unlikely to come into fruition when the studio has only 25 employees at its disposal.
So there you have it, the EA “serial killings” of studios. Whether you’re a fan of the Dungeon Keeper series, The Sims or the Command & Conquer series, there’s no doubt that EA has angered or disappointed fans by shutting down some of these studios which were once, mighty giants of the game industry.