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IndustryVideo games
Founded1987; 34 years ago (1987)
Key people
ParentElectronic Arts (1997–present)

Maxis is an American video game developer and a division of Electronic Arts (EA). The studio was founded in 1987 by Will Wright and Jeff Braun, and acquired by EA in 1997. Maxis is best known for its simulation games, including The Sims, Spore and SimCity.

Maxis' Emeryville studio was closed in March 2015, moving development of Maxis titles to other EA studio locations. Employees of the Emeryville studio were "given opportunities to explore" other positions within Maxis and other EA studios.[2] In an organisational restructure later in September, the now consolidated Maxis team was moved to function alongside EA Mobile.[3]


Origin and early acclaim[edit]

The former logo of Maxis
Will Wright, Maxis co-founder

Maxis was founded in 1987 by Will Wright and Jeff Braun to help publish SimCity on home computers. Before then, the game was only available on a limited basis on the Commodore 64 due to few publishers showing any interest in porting a non-traditional game without definite "win" and "lose" conditions. The title went on to become one of the most popular and successful video games of all time.[4] The SimCity series has spawned multiple sequels and spin-offs. Following the broad success of SimCity 2000, Maxis moved from Orinda, California, to Walnut Creek in 1994.[4] To name the company, Braun required that the name was "from 5-7 letters, mean nothing, be easy to remember and contain a x,z or q"; the name "Maxis" was presented by Braun's father.[5] Maxis tried various other Sim- titles. Most of these were based on game-based simulations after studying systems that could be analyzed and simulated, such as SimAnt, SimFarm, SimEarth, SimLife, SimTower, and SimIsle.

One of the unintended successes of SimCity was recognition of the means to gamify the intersection of multiple real-world systems that could be used for planning and development, such as using SimCity-type simulations for urban planning.[6][7] Around 1992, Maxis was approached by corporations and government agencies who wanted the company to use the same system simulation principles of SimCity to develop non-game simulations that they could manipulate for similar planning purposes. To support this, Maxis bought a small company, Delta Logic, and its owner John Hiles, who had been focused on more immediate business simulation software, and rebranded it as Maxis Business Simulations (MBS) for this work. Among works developed under this included SimRefinery for the Chevron Corporation, and SimHealth for the Markle Foundation. In 1994, Maxis decided to let this division go on its own; MBS rebranded itself as Thinking Tools Inc. and continued to produce similar simulation tools, but eventually closed down in 1998. Most of the information on MBS and Thinking Tools has been lost as upon being told of the company's closure, the few remaining employees burned most of the company's archives and only remnants of MBS' output exists.[8]

Maxis released some non-simulation titles, such as 1991's RoboSport and 1995's 3D Pinball for Windows, which was included as one of the standard system games in several Windows releases. On June 1, 1995, Maxis became a public company.[9]


After the success of SimCity, Maxis experimented with different genres. However, their new games, including The Crystal Skull and SimCopter, were commercial failures.[citation needed] They also acquired Cinematronics to create a game called Crucible and Full Tilt! Pinball. Heavy losses and lack of direction led Maxis to begin considering acquisition offers.

Acquisition by Electronic Arts[edit]

In 1997, Maxis agreed to be acquired by Electronic Arts by means of a stock swap which valued Maxis at $125 million.[10] In a press release, Maxis stated it agreed to the acquisition in order to take advantage of Electronic Arts' strong distribution channel.[11] The transaction was complete on July 28, 1997.[12]

Over 1998, Maxis was allowed to finish SimCity 3000 on its own time; following this, Wright's efforts were thrown into The Sims, at the time seen as a major gamble for the company, as the dollhouse game was not seen as a match for the video game market's demographics. The Sims was released in February 2000; its success buoyed Wright's reputation and saved Maxis as a separate working unit.[citation needed] For the first half of the decade, Maxis continued to produce expansions and sequels to The Sims. In 2004, Maxis' longtime studios in Walnut Creek were closed,[13] and the staff moved to EA offices in Redwood City.

SimCity 4 was released in 2003. It was the first title in the series to implement true 3D, as well as the first where Wright was not directly involved with work.

Spore, hiatus, and revival[edit]

As The Sims became a steady success, Will Wright began to focus on Spore.[14] The three years between its public announcement and its release were protracted enough to attract use of the term "vaporware" by some,[15] and upon its 2008 release, found itself subject to harsh criticism and the target of a consumer protest against Electronic Arts.[16] Despite the poor launch publicity, Spore sold 1 million units in its first month.[17]

Will Wright left Maxis in 2009. Maxis' only new standalone title until 2013 was Darkspore. During this time, redirected to the Spore website, then later once more to the website for The Sims.[18] Throughout this period, the studio continued to operate in Emeryville.

At the 2012 Game Developers Conference, EA announced a new SimCity along with a new logo for the Maxis brand. Maxis became one of four primary labels at EA, replacing the "EA Play" brand.[19] Development of The Sims continued,[20] and Maxis branding returned in 2013 with the launch of The Sims 3: University Life,[21] and SimCity.

Emeryville studio closure[edit]

In March 2015, Guillaume Pierre, lead gameplay scripter of SimCity, announced that Maxis' Emeryville studio was being closed.[22] On September 25, 2015, Electronic Arts said in an organisation restructure that the consolidated Maxis team will continue their work alongside the EA Mobile division under Samantha Ryan, senior vice president for EA Mobile and Maxis. However, the CEO of Electronic Arts said the "collaboration" would still see most of Maxis' future products available for personal computers.[23][3]

In September 2016, EA Mobile, Maxis and BioWare joined EA Worldwide Studios.[24]

Notable games[edit]

Maxis is regarded for its innovative simulation games, in which there is no specific goal to the player, making its games almost endless.

SimCity series[edit]

SimCity was Maxis' first release and innovated the conception of gaming as there was no specific goal to be reached, meaning that it could neither be won nor lost. The player is a mayor that may, at their leisure, take a city from a single village to a successful metropolis, laying down zones, taking care of the public services and stimulating the city's economy. The series includes six main games (SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, SimCity Societies and SimCity) and three spin-offs, Sim City: The Card Game, SimCopter and Streets of SimCity. SimCity Societies, the fifth main release, was not produced by Maxis, but by Tilted Mill Entertainment, being described as a 'social engineering simulator' and criticized for the lack of SimCity's traditional formula. In 2013, Maxis label Emeryville released a new version of SimCity.

The Sims[edit]

Maxis' most successful series to date and one of the best-selling PC games of all time is The Sims (2000).[25] Maxis has developed seven expansion packs for the game as well as an online version (The Sims Online). Maxis released The Sims 2 in 2004, a sequel title that features a full 3D environment as opposed to the original's dimetric engine.

On May 6, 2013, it was announced that Maxis would be developing The Sims 4.[26] The game was released internationally in September 2014.


Spore was released in September 2008. Players create species starting at the single cell level, and develop them into sentient life. The goal is for them to eventually gain the intelligence to create spaceships. The Spore Creature Creator allows users to create species for later use in the game. This is one of few Maxis' games to feature goals on its plot as the player must complete five different phases and reach the space-traveling technology. There is also an ultimate goal, which is entering the galactic core, a massive black hole surrounded by a powerful and hostile cyborg species called the Grox. However, the player can stay in a single phase as long as they wish, even after completing it.

The game holds an 84 Metascore on Metacritic, indicating generally positive reviews from critics which is tempered by the overwhelming number of negative user reviews, mostly relating to the game's technical issues. EA Games confirmed the production of expansion packs due to Spore's financial success,[27] later releasing Spore Galactic Adventures in 2009 as well as several spin-offs and "parts packs", plus the addition of the spin-off of Spore, Darkspore.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sarkar, Samit (March 4, 2015). "EA shuts down Maxis Emeryville, studio behind SimCity". Polygon. Archived from the original on March 4, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Maxis Organizational Update". Electronic Arts. September 24, 2015. Archived from the original on May 2, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Keighley, Geoff (1999). "GameSpot's SIMply Divine: The Story of Maxis Software". GameSpot. Archived from the original on May 8, 1999.
  5. ^ Keefer, John (March 31, 2006). "GameSpy Retro: Developer Origins, Page 11 of 19". GameSpy. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007.
  6. ^ Yoo, Tony (July 12, 2016). "SimCity legacy: smarter cities when urban planners play for keeps". The Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  7. ^ Roy, Jessica (March 5, 2019). "Must Reads: From video game to day job: How 'SimCity' inspired a generation of city planners". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  8. ^ Machkovech, Sam (May 19, 2020). "The sprawling, must-read history of Maxis' former "serious games" division". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  9. ^ "Maxis Goes Public". June 1, 1995. Archived from the original on April 4, 2019. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  10. ^ "Electronic Arts Will Buy Maxis in Swap". The New York Times. June 5, 1997. Archived from the original on November 28, 2016.
  11. ^ "Maxis Merges with EA". GamePro. No. 108. IDG. September 1997. p. 22.
  12. ^ "Maxis Now Under EA's Wing". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. July 28, 1997. Archived from the original on April 23, 1999. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  13. ^ Feldman, Curt (February 11, 2004). "Electronic Arts moves Maxis". GameSpot. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  14. ^ Jon, Scott (November 13, 2006). "interviews Spore's Chaim Gingold and Chris Hecker". Joystiq. Archived from the original on November 15, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  15. ^ Calore, Michael (December 27, 2006). "Vaporware '06: Return of the King". Wired. Archived from the original on November 13, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  16. ^ Naraine, Ryan (September 25, 2008). "EA Spore backlash could help end DRM". ZDNet. Archived from the original on April 4, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  17. ^ Quillen, Dustin (September 24, 2008). "Spore Sales Skyrocket Beyond One Million". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  18. ^ " Now Redirects to The Sims Franchise Site?". BeyondSims. February 11, 2012. Archived from the original on November 15, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  19. ^ "EA Company Labels l Electronic Arts". April 9, 2012. Archived from the original on April 29, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  20. ^ "Forums – Community – The Sims 3". Archived from the original on June 1, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  21. ^ "The Maxis Logo Returns To The Sims 3 – – Latest news and more for The Sims 3 & SimCity!". Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  22. ^ Jason Schreier. "EA Shuts Down SimCity Developer Maxis". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Archived from the original on May 5, 2015.
  23. ^ Makuch, Eddie (September 24, 2015). "The Sims Boss Lucy Bradshaw Leaves EA After 23 Years". GameSpot. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  24. ^ "Organizational Update". Electronic Arts. September 13, 2016. Archived from the original on September 16, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  25. ^ Walker, Trey (March 22, 2002). "The Sims overtakes Myst". GameSpot. Archived from the original on April 1, 2012. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  26. ^ "The Sims 4 moves into fall 2014". Archived from the original on May 11, 2013.
  27. ^ Bogost, Ian (March 31, 2008). "Opinion: Is Spore 'For Everyone'?". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]