The Sims 4 developer Maxis may have been shuttered, but at least one former employee doesn’t have beef with EA and its decision.
Although The Sims 4 and SimCity will continue along with the studio’s brand, the flagship Maxis studios has been closed.
The closure prompted a resurgence of interest in EA’s acquisitions; there was a period of several years when the publisher made so many closures of purchased teams that it has gained a reputation for it; Pandemic’s 12 month turn around was particularly painful. Kotaku has a good round up, if you’re interested.
EA’s purchasing habits are just one reason why the publisher is frequently characterised as villainous, but a developer known as vertexnormal, whom the moderators of /r/SimCity have verified was a Maxis employee, has said the company is a good employer.
“EA is actually a great place to work these days,” they wrote.
“In the past there were difficulties (I was part of the EA Spouse/class action) but a lot of that has turned around. They really do want to retain talent and minimize layoffs.
“Not everyone shares this experience, but I haven’t worked back-to-back weekends in almost a decade. EA has a really good benefits package, competitive pay, and a strong sense of progressive public responsibility. Maxis, in particular the Sims side, has what is probably the highest level of gender equality in the industry.”
Vertexnormal said they left Maxis in January partially because they could see the closure coming, but also that they loved the studio and was sad to see it close.
They also described EA’s internal “green light gating process” which can mean studios spend years in pre-production prototyping games before the corporation gives the go ahead to actually make anything.
“Some time after that, when marketing thinks it is right, they will announce the game to the public. From that point on nothing changes from the public facing. Once locked into ‘online-only’ there was no way of changing it,” they said of SimCity.
“People complained that the cities were too small but there was no way to address that without compromising the numbers and forecasts when the game was sold to EA’s corporate overseers. EA can’t be negotiated with at this level, you can’t change their mind, you REALLY have to fight to get dates changed etc.
“I also don’t fault EA with this process. It is meant to minimize risk and it does pretty well at that,” they added.
“EA is a very large ship, it takes a lot of energy and time to get it to change direction. That long process steers the ship and adds predictability. Smaller companies are able to pivot much faster but lack EA’s resources and ability to ‘play the long game’. All of this stuff happens out of necessity, and all of it comes down to money.”
It’s quite interesting to hear a positive insider perspective on EA, especially from someone with reason to be embittered by their experiences. Certainly we’ve seen major changes in how the publisher operates over the past few years, with several big ticket delays – Dragon Age: Inquisition, Battlefield: Hardline – announced in the past 18 months, and signficant improvements to financial results after some very rough years in the late 2000’s. Is this new CEO Andrew Wilson’s influence?