Posts Tagged ‘Maxis’

Following the always-timely Stephen Totilo’s Multiplayer Twitter feed, I caught the news just a couple minutes ago about Will Wright leaving EA Maxis to commit fully to his multimedia IP think tank, Stupid Fun Club. For the record, Totilo was seven minutes ahead of EA’s official Twitter.

stupid fun club logoI’m not entirely surprised with the move. DRM controversy aside, Spore made a tremendous splash with critics and consumers alike, and it really felt like the culmination of everything he’s done in the Sim lineage.  There were elements of big sellers like The Sims and SimCity in there, and even some of the quirkier titles like SimFarm, SimAnt and SimEarth. I don’t really see a need for Spore 2, and I’m willing to bet Wright feels the same way.  Then again, when has that stopped anyone?

Without a doubt, Wright can say he was with EA during a transformative period for the company.  EA bought Maxis in ’97, so you’ve got the rise of Sony and the PlayStation brand, and EA’s embracing that technology to become an undisputed superpower in development during that time.  The advancement of Western development and evntual industry shift to cater to US-centric tastes.  The PR backlash against “big, bad EA” and the EA Spouse Livejournal giving a voice to the workforce rights issue that could no longer be ignored.  The end of Sega as a hardware manufacturer (catalyzed by EA’s lack of support for the Dreamcast) and the entrance of Microsoft on the console scene.  Countless top personnel moves, exclusive licensing deals won (NFL) and lost (MLB), and the will-they-won’t-they? circus of EA’s move to acquire Take2.

Will Wright managed to keep himself and his studio remarkably clear of everything that went down at the parent company during that time.  They managed to stick to resonable release schedules and get quality games to market every few years.  EA has a stake Stupid Fun Club, and it sounds like they retain rights of first refusal on their videogame projects.  I hope it works out well for all involved, and am really excited to see what their first projects look like.

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Just in case you missed it, be sure and check out the excellent piece on Spore in the NY Times by Yale fellow and renowned scientist Carl Zimmer.  The Times is hardly ever wanting for quality games journalism, with Seth Schiesel on staff and even the occasional think piece from Steven Johnson in the Sunday Magazine.  But Zimmer’s exploration of Spore is a real gem, because he treats Spore with the same level of respect as any entry in any medium that has the potential to bridge the gap between livingroom and classroom.

I’m sure that one day the medium will mature to the point that stories like this will become commonplace, but for now it’s a high watermark for games coverage in mainstream press.  Also, Zimmer’s piece mentions How to Build a Better Being, a Discovery Channel special that airs next Tuesday (and will come packed in with the special editionof Spore).  As I said before, Will Wright’s showing up in force to promote Spore. We should all enjoy it while it lasts.

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This week saw the official kickoff for ‘s Will Wright’s Spore, as the Creature Creator module was made available on quite a few platforms. While I wouldn’t quite say it’s the games industry’s Chinese Democracy*, Spore’s had its share of delays since being announced (and winning the “Best of Show” award) at E3 2005.

I’m thoroughly impressed with the way EA/Maxis has managed to keep the community’s interest piqued over the course of Spore’s journey from cradle to shelves. Will Wright’s been fairly reclusive since the SimCity days, and his quasi-vow of silence endured even during the development cycles of high profile titles like SimEarth and The Sims, after his rock star status had been firmly established. The long runup to Spore, however, has yielded unprecedented glimpses into Wright’s development process, through the eyes of the absolute best writers in games journalism.

Under normal circumstances, gamers would have given up long ago on a title that had this many public delays. But Wright’s reputation, candor with the enthusiast press, and build-ins for additional platforms, like the DS and iPhone, have bought EA/Maxis a reprieve in this case. Just last week, Wright even weighed in on the “games as art” argument in this gem of an interview with GameDaily Biz.

We won’t know until September if all the anticipation was worth it, but for now the project originally dubbed “SimEverything” stands as a textbook study in how to premarket a huge, genre-defining multiplatform game.

*For those scoring at home, Duke Nukem Forever is the game industry’s Chinese Democracy. A dubious honor if ever there was one.

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