While the posted article is new, the interview appears to have been conducted awhile back. Author Tristan Donovan has been interviewing numerous people in the video game industry for his upcoming book Replay: The History of Video Games. The following article is his interview with SimCity and Sims creator Will Wright. Lots of interesting tidbits, I must say!
So how did you keep the project (The Sims) alive?
WW: I was trying to get resources within Maxis, and nobody wanted to spend the resources on developing it. On the other hand, we had this small group in San Mateo that was doing tools and technology for our company, but nobody was using their tools. It was kind of this programmer thing of “not invented here”, and so they were trying to make these code frameworks and things and the department was like, “No, I’d rather bring my own.”
So we were about to pull the plug on this little group, because nobody was using what they were making, but they were really brilliant guys. This was like four guys.
So I said, “Look, just give me those guys over there.” They weren’t even in the same office, and nobody saw them anyway, and so they became my little black ops group. I went over there and they really got it. They worked for the first year trying to bring it up and getting it running, and we were making great progress. That was right around the time that EA came in.
We were on the public market at that point, and EA was doing due diligence, deciding if they wanted to buy our company or not. They were originally thinking they wanted to buy Maxis because of SimCity, but some of the executives at EA saw The Sims and were like, “What’s this?” We didn’t even tell them; nobody mentioned we were working on this project.
They actually felt very excited about it, and it wasn’t longer after that EA bought Maxis. EA’s management that came to help broaden Maxis were so excited by it, at that point there was no problem. I got plenty of resources on the team and it was all downhill from there.
So EA saved it in a way?
WW: Yes. It was like a total Monday, and as soon as Luc Barthelet, the general manager EA brought in, came in he was like, “Yeah, what do you need? Let’s go for it.” He was very into it, and had a lot of contributions in terms of us launching the community around it and all that stuff, so probably Luc more than anybody else was responsible.