The slaughter of the development houses

EA kills another legendary name in game development:

In an a move to consolidate its studios Electronic Arts has announced that it will be closing down Maxis. One of the sad truths of the video game industry is that game studios close down and disappear all the time. That being the case, there are still moments when you see certain names coupled with the words “shut down” and can’t help but feel a bit saddened.

Case in point, Electronic Arts has announced at GDC today that it will be closing down Maxis Emeryville in an effort to fold its staff and projects into other development houses under the Maxis brand. Recognizing that this consolidation will lead to many of the studio’s staffers losing their jobs, EA stated that former Emeryville employees “will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA.” The publisher also intends to work with employees leaving wholesale “to ensure the best possible transition with separation packages and career assistance.”

What is that now, six or seven classic development houses that have been devoured by the EA monster? I was seriously concerned when they acquired Origin, and downright bummed out when it became obvious that they were going to kill both the Ultima and Wing Commander franchises. Chris Roberts even worked out a deal to try to revive the latter a few years ago, but wasn’t able to find the funding, hence Star Citizen. One hopes that one day, he’ll be able to buy back the IP that EA is never going to utilize.

I have fond memories of Maxis. Roger, one of their tech support guys, was my initial contact there in my Transdimensional Evangelist days, and we used to go into the city from time to time when I was in town. We had some unforgettable evenings, most notably the time another Maxis employee who had a jeep with the license plate “JAHARMY”  was driving and took us to DV8.

Well, at least they’re keeping the brand name for now. I seriously wonder sometimes how EA even stays in business. They shut down a friend’s studio last year that was highly profitable, just because the overall revenue was under the level dictated by their new corporate policy. They didn’t sell it or anything, just shut it down and threw away literally millions of dollars in profit. So PopCap is next, after which it will presumably be Bioware’s turn.