An anonymous Maxis developer has spoken bluntly about publisher EA on reddit.
You may be surprised to hear, that in spite of the recent closure of EA Emeryville, this dev is still very protective of EA. In his own words:
EA is actually a great place to work these days. 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.
However, he had not so nice things to say when it comes to the issue of SimCity 2013:
Money. It all comes down to money. EA as a corporation doesn’t share our sense of obligation out of sentimentality. Hence today’s announcement.
The long gap is probably caused by several factors. First was that the expansion for SC4 didn’t print cash like The Sims was at the time. Sure it made money, but The Sims had a HUGE (I remember reading 16x) return on the investment. So it got deprioritized to make The Sims 2. Which again made huge returns.
EA has adopted a greenlight gating process. Where by with little or no capital invested they have a few highly talented senior designers/creative types come up with the framework of a game. They develop what they can as proof of concept, usually simple gameplay prototypes and concept art, which is then presented to EA. This sets up a series of gates and reviews whereby they get more money and manpower as it seems necessary and the time to work on the gameplay, engine, and artistic style. This whole period is called preproduction, and can last from a few months to a few years. At some point you go into production, which means you know what you are making, how you are going to do it, how they are going to sell it and hard numbers to back all of that up. 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. 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.
So, during that 10 year wait there was almost 9 years of silence. 3 or 4 of those years had active development of the game that shipped, with another year or more of a small group of creatives. There were other attempts that never made the light of day, and products (Simcity Societies comes to mind) that didn’t deliver that ‘SimCity’ experience.
I offer all of this with the caveat that they don’t even tell us (read ‘the devs’) all of this and some of it is conjecture.
At least, he assures the few fans still playing that the game’s servers should stay online for the near future:
I can’t speak for EA, but killing brands is not good business. SimCity had a unique place in gaming history, and was one of the first games that non-gamers liked. I can’t count the times I’ve told someone I worked on games and they’ve said “Oh, I don’t really play games”. Usually, I would then tell them I worked on SimCity and they would be “Oh I loved that game, back when I was a kid..” etc. There are no other games with that kind of broad appeal, so it’s legacy and situation are unique. It took 3-5 years each to make SC3K/SC4/SC2013.
My guess is that EA will keep the servers up as long as it makes financial sense. These days they are pretty cheap to run.