EA have announced the closure of Maxis Emeryville, the studio behind such iconic titles as SimCity and The Sims. Rumors were circulating that the studio might have met its end after employees began tweeting about the situation, but those reports have now been confirmed in a statement released to Polygon by EA earlier today.
Founded in 1987, Maxis first rose to prominence with the release of the original SimCity. That title established the template for much of the studio’s output, which co-founder Will Wright would later compare to ‘digital dollhouses’. These titles encouraged ongoing play, without the strict win conditions and fail states often expected from video games.
While SimCity is one of the most beloved series in gaming, Maxis’ biggest hit would come in 2000 with the release of The Sims. The franchise has sold more than 100 million units in the years since, with The Sims 4 being released just last year to a moderately positive response.
The Sims and SimCity were certainly Maxis’ most well-known contributions to the video game canon, but their smaller titles found just as dedicated a following. Games like SimAnt, SimCopter and Streets of SimCity couldn’t rival the sales of their bigger siblings, but will nevertheless endure thanks to their fans for years to come.
While this news wasn’t anticipated, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The studio’s 2013 reboot of SimCity was met with widespread criticism from fans thanks to its focus on online city-building rather than a robust single-player experience, and EA have a nasty habit of closing studios associated with poorly received projects.
In 2001, EA shuttered Bullfrog, another noted PC developer responsible for titles like Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper. Then 2003 saw Command & Conquer devs Westwood Studios suffer the same fate, and Star Wars: Battlefront and Mercenaries creators Pandemic were shut down in 2009.
The Sims and SimCity will, however, continue on even without the studio that created them. Sister studios in Salt Lake City, Redwood Shores, Helsinki and Melbourne will continue their efforts in producing DLC content and mobile ports for both franchises.
Nevertheless, it’s a shame to see a studio with such a rich history dismantled. Hopefully, the talented men and women working at Maxis Emeryville will be able to find a suitable home for their skills; EA maintains that opportunities are being offered up, despite the fact that SimCity gameplay scripter Guillaume Pierre tweeted earlier that ‘everyone’s out of a job’.