EA shuts SimCity developer Maxis Emeryville

In a move that’s shocked just about everyone, EA has closed down Maxis Emeryville, the lead developer behind games like SimCity and Spore. The publisher is quick to point out that this isn’t the end of the Maxis brand as a whole, but in most people’s eyes, the heart of the company has been ripped out.

The reason? EA explains it is “consolidating” Maxis IP development, focussing instead on studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne. In turn, these studios are focussing their attentions either on The Sims, or the mobile adaptations of SimCity.

The Sims has been handled by spin-off developer The Sims Studio for some time now, and the Emeryville closure will not affect that franchise.

The news first came from SimCity‘s lead gameplay scripter and designer, Guillaume Pierre, who posted to Twitter:

Well it was a fun 12 years, but it’s time to turn off the lights and put the key under the door. #RIPMaxisEmeryville

Fellow developers, including art director Ocean Quigley soon acknowledged the news, calling it the “end of an era”. Even former colleagues, like Alex Hutchinson, now creative director at Ubisoft Montreal raised a glass to the amazing people he worked with on Spore and The Sims 2.

The official statement from EA is full of corporate-speak:

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.

…translating that last paragraph: According to Pierre, everyone in Emeryville is now out of a job.

Founded in 1987 and bought by EA ten years later, Maxis was home to Will Wright’s SimCity franchise, which spawned games like SimEarth, SimAnt, SimFarm and SimTown, as well as a number of sequels. The studio also created the first two games in The Sims series, but later development was handled by The Sims Studio.

Maxis released SimCity in 2013, but the game fell significantly short of expectations. After a rocky launch, fan protests over game updates and the controversial always-online requirement finally scrapped after more than a year of fan requests, it’s no wonder it didn’t perform well. Whether or not it was “bad enough” to warrant the closure of an iconic studio, though… probably not.

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