In a recent roundtable podcast, Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen shared a story concerning Plants Vs. Zombies creator George Fan. George is an indie developer now, but he got his start in the industry when his game Insaniquarium exploded in popularity and was acquired by PopCap Games. George went to work for PopCap, as well.
After joining PopCap Games, George Fan began work on what would become Plants Vs. Zombies with a team of two other developers. Plants vs. Zombies was an instant hit on its release in 2009. It’s tower defense-lite style of gameplay made it instantly accessible to almost anyone, and is a significant influence on the creation of the “casual gaming” market.
Of course, work was soon started on a sequel, and George was again at the helm of a small team. In mid-2011 Electronic Arts acquired PopCap Games for $650 million, and that’s where the trouble started. According to McMillen, EA approached George and wanted Plants vs. Zombies 2 to contain microtransactions and pay-to-win systems. When George said he didn’t want to do that with his game, he was one of 50 employees laid-off by PopCap Games in North America as they shifted to mobile and free-to-play games only.
Plants vs. Zombies 2 released in 2013 and of course was free-to-play and contained microtransactions and timers and all that great stuff. After leaving EA/PopCap George went back into indie game design and is slated to release the game Octogeddon at some point. Octogeddon was slated for an early-2017 release, but it’s still MIA.
Of course, George’s story has been brought to light in a month in which EA has already repeatedly angered the gaming community. The latest debacle involving the company, concerning the microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2, might be the straw that broke the camels back though. Gamers are heavily protesting this latest shady move, and in response, EA has removed microtransactions altogether, with the stipulation the game would be balanced before they’re reinserted.
You can listen to the roundtable discussion below. George’s comments begin at the 41-minute mark: