Every March, hundreds of video game developers flock to the Game Developers Conference to announce new games. But on Wednesday, news emerged that one key studio would never make a game again.
Maxis—the developer of SimCity, and a studio I'm comfortable calling one of the most influential of all time—is closing shop. The news was confirmed by designer Guillaume Pierre over Twitter.
"Well it was a fun 12 years," wrote Pierre, "but it's time to turn off the lights and put the key under the door."
Founded by Will Wright and Jeff Braun in 1987 to work on SimCity, Maxis's Emeryville, Calif.-based studio took the simulation genre in every possible direction and every imaginable scale,from the whole SimEarth to tiny SimAnts. There were flubs—SimCopter and The Streets of SimCity come to mind—but in 2000, Wright and Maxis would create the best-selling PC game of all time: The Sims.
Players could design their own virtual humans and control every aspect of their lives—their home, career and accoutrements. You could treat your Sims well—see them prosper in life and start a family—or choose the more popular option of playing as a total monster, trapping your Sims in a room with no door or toilet. Wright left Maxis in 2009, shortly after the release of the evolution sim Spore.
Electronic Arts, which bought Maxis in 1997, released a statement further confirming the closure not long after Pierre announced the news.
"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," wrote EA. "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."
Unfortunately, parent companies close studios all the time in the video game industry—even successful ones. Despite creating one of the most buzzed about series of the decade, for example, Take-Two Interactive shut down Bioshock developer Irrational Games last year.
Still, it's hard not to wonder whether the end of Maxis has anything to do with the studio's last major release, 2013's reboot of SimCity. Its launch was a fiasco. The studio claimed a constant internet connection was integral to most of the games' features, and so SimCity could only be played while connected to their servers—servers that weren't ready to handle the launch-day strain. For weeks, players struggled to stay connected, and could barely save their cities. Even Wright, who had long since left the company, was pissed.
Maxis' closing won't mean the end of SimCity or The Sims. Future installments will likely be managed by other teams within EA. It's just a bummer to see such a seminal team pack up their desks, their offices demolished like so many communities by so many UFOs.