Maxis is an American company founded as an independent video game developer in 1987. It is currently a subsidiary of Electronic Arts (EA), and serves as one of the four major labels of the company. Maxis is the creator of one of the best-selling computer games of all time, The Sims, and its first sequel, The Sims 2. These titles and their related products are the brand's most popular and successful lines.
Most Maxis titles are simulation-based, though none are considered traditional simulations. Maxis founder Will Wright likens them to "digital dollhouses." Maxis has also released games developed by other production houses, such as A-Train and SimTower.
Origin and early acclaim
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 it. The reason for this is because SimCity wasn't a traditional game that had definite "win" and "lose" conditions. The title went on to become, statistically, one of the most popular and successful video games of all time.
After such success with the SimCity series, Maxis tried various other Sim- titles. Some of these attempts include SimAnt, SimFarm, SimEarth, SimLife, SimTower, SimIsle and SimHealth. Maxis was also approached by companies to design business aids; SimRefinery is one example. The success of these franchises varies, but none matched that of the original SimCity. Maxis' hit The Sims is the only notable exception.
Maxis also released some non-simulation titles, such as 1991's RoboSport and the well-known 1995 3D Pinball for Windows, which has been included as one of the standard system games in many Windows releases.
Origin of the name
Maxis's name was derived from a formula suggested by Jeff Braun's father: computer game companies should have two-syllable names and should include an 'x'. This is confirmed in an interview with a Maxis employee on a bonus disc released with The Sims: Makin' Magic advertising The Sims 2 and also in early packaging of SimCity 2000 Special Edition.
The interview also addresses a rumor stating that Maxis is named after "six AM" in reverse, typically the time of day that a Sim's alarm clock wakes him/her up. The Maxis employee explains that it is just an interesting coincidence. An easter egg programmed in SimCity 3000 displays the message "Do you know that Maxis spelled backwards is Six AM?" on the game's ticker bar upon entering the cheat code "maxis" in the cheat entry box. Another homage is featured in the 2013 SimCity: the moving truck company is named SixAM, with a similar logo.
After the immense success of SimCity, Maxis experimented with different genres. However, their new games, including The Crystal Skull and SimCopter, were commercial failures. They also acquired Cinematronics to create a game called Crucible. Heavy losses and lack of direction led Maxis to begin considering acquisition offers.
Acquisition by EA
EA completed its acquisition of Maxis on July 28, 1997. Compared to other companies acquired by EA, such as Origin Systems and Westwood Studios, the absorption of Maxis took a slower pace, and the company staff was lost only gradually.
Over 1998, SimCity 3000 was meddled with somewhat, but Maxis was allowed to finish the game 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. After development work for the game was concluded, Maxis' longtime studios in Walnut Creek were officially closed in 2004, and the staff moved to EA offices in Redwood City. The Sims was released that February; its massive success buoyed Wright's reputation and saved Maxis as a separate working unit.
For the first half of the decade, Maxis continued to produce expansions and sequels to The Sims, though EA's branding became more and more visible.
The first prints of The Sims featured Maxis' logo prominently on the front, sides, and back of the box cover. Electronic Arts' logo, in contrast, was much smaller relatively, and was only visible on the back of the box. After the series proved to be a surprise success, Electronic Arts slowly replaced Maxis' logos with its own logo. This was first seen with The Sims: Livin' Large, where Maxis' logo was resized with a much more prominent Electronic Arts logo placed at the bottom center of the box cover. All releases from 2001 to 2003 bore the logos of both Electronic Arts and Maxis on the front and back of box covers. With the release of The Sims 2 in 2004, Maxis' logo was only displayed at the back of the box as well as the title screen at the launch of the game. The Sims 2: Pets, which was released in 2006, omitted Maxis' logo from the game's launch screen though the logo persisted at the back of the box. From The Sims 2: Seasons onwards, Maxis' logo is completely omitted from both the box and launch screens. Up until The Sims 2: FreeTime, the logo of Maxis was used for a button in the Options panel of the game to display the credits. In FreeTime, the Maxis logo was replaced by a symbol of the Sims plumb-bob—the game was now being made by a newly separate division, The Sims Studio. However, Maxis logo appears on The Sims 3 game's launch screen again after patch 1.50 and The Sims 3: University Life expansion pack were released.
SimCity 4 was released in 2003, it was a series first implementing true 3D, as well as the first where Wright was not directly involved with work.
Spore, hiatus, and revival
As The Sims became a steady success, Will Wright began to focus on Spore. With the spinoff of The Sims Studio, it was Maxis' only project (In 2006, Maxis.com simply redirected to The Sims). Its development was protracted enough to merit vaporware status, and upon its 2008 release, found itself subject to harsh criticism and the target of a consumer protest against Electronic Arts. Despite the poor launch publicity, Spore still sold 1 million units in its first month.
Will Wright left Maxis in 2009. Maxis' only new standalone title until 2013 was Darkspore. During this time, Maxis.com redirected to the Spore website, then later once more to the website for The Sims. 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. Development of The Sims continued with The Sims Studio, which was reintegrated with Maxis in 2012, and Maxis branding returned in 2013 with the launch of The Sims 3: University Life, and SimCity (2013).
Now EA Maxis label included these studios : Maxis (Emeryville), EA Play/The Sims Studio (Redwood Shores) and EA Salt Lake (Salt Lake City).
Maxis is widely regarded for its innovative simulation games, in which there is no specific goal to the player, making its games almost endless.
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. In this franchise, 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 for the franchise, 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 gaming formula. In 2013, EA Maxis label (Emeryville) released SimCity (2013).
Maxis' most successful series to date and the best-selling PC game of all time is The Sims (2000). 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. Eight expansion packs and nine stuff packs have been released for the sequel. The third rendition, The Sims 3, was released by EA in 2009. Production of the game, its expansion packs and stuff packs were left to The Sims Studio as Maxis (Emeryville) focused on their Spore franchise. Nine expansion packs and eight stuff packs have been released for this third generation of the series so far. Since the 6th expansion of The Sims 3, which was released in early 2012, the expansion packs are produced under the name of EA Maxis label (Redwood Shores) according to the press releases.
Spore was released on September 7, 2008 (September 5 in Europe). 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 currently holds an 84 Metascore on Metacritic, indicating generally positive reviews from professional critics which is tempered by the overwhelming number of negative user reviews. EA Games confirmed the production of expansion packs due to Spore's financial success, 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.