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Plants vs. Zombies

Rumour: Plants vs. Zombies creator fired over pay-to-win

Update: George Fan weighs in with short statement, as does PVZ2 producer Allen Murray.

Recently, EA has come under heavy fire from the wider gaming community for implementing predatory monetisation tactics in both Star Wars Battlefront II and Need for Speed Payback. Now, if a new report is to be believed, they feel so strongly about using microtransactions that they're prepared to fire anyone, even the creator of Plants vs. Zombies.

Recently, the newest edition of the BaerTaffy podcast surfaced, and here Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen talks a bit about the EA controversies. He shared a story about Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan, who McMillen said was fired by EA for refusing to implement pay-to-win systems in Plants vs. Zombies 2.

Multiplayer First has transcribed McMillen's story:

"You guys want to hear an industry story that has to do with EA and an independent developer? This is a semi-unknown story, and I hope I'm not stepping on toes with it, but I know I long as I say it like a "slightly fuzzy on the details.

"It involves a friend of mine, George Fan. So George made a game called "Insaniquarium." He made it ages ago and it won a lot of awards, and he got headhunted by PopCap. And PopCap hired him, set him off with two more people in a small office, and said, "hey, make the game" and he's like "okay I'm going to make Plants vs. Zombies." And he made Plants vs. Zombies, it was hugely successful, and they got acquired by EA, EA made that game even more successful. And they were like, "okay, we're going to focus on this and we're going to make a sequel, we're going to do spinoffs, this and this."

"And George was like, "great! I've got an idea for a sequel!" And he developed this game independently as well, with an independent mindset with a small team of people. It was personal. Knowing the guy, I can see the characters are personal, every little bit and pieces is something from him. So it was his baby. And they're like "hey, y'know, let's make this sequel, start on the sequel, and we're going to put it on mobile, and we're going to do this pay-to-win." And he's like, "ah, I dunno, it's not a good idea, and I don't really want to do that with my game, and they said, "you're fired." And he left."

We're going to assume this retelling is verbatim, and perhaps a little overly simplified to make a point. And Plants vs. Zombies 2 wasn't, at least in our minds, overly pay-to-win, even if it abandoned the premium model for a freemium setup.

Update: George Fan has released a short statement on Twitter that neither confirms nor denies the claims made above:

"Regarding recent rumors, it is true I was laid off by EA/PopCap, and also true that I was against making PvZ2 a freemium game. That's all I'll say on the matter for now."

Another Update: Another tweet, this time by Plants vs. Zombies 2 producer Allen Murray, seems to have poured cold water over the whole thing. Here's what he had to say to McMillen:

"Wow. Hey @edmundmcmillen, I was the producer of PvZ2 and that story was not even close to the truth. It's a bummer that something false like this came out second hand. I'm happy to chat offline.

"Since this picked up some traction, I should state the facts that I know. I was the lead producer from Jan '12 to launch in July '13, about 18mo. George was never involved during the time I worked on the project. He was working on a different game, which was super fun!

"But it never launched. George was unfortunately part of the layoffs in Aug '12, but I know none of the details surrounding his departure. In Oct '12 there was a change in franchise leadership that mandated a shift to f2p mobile.

"Despite concerns about the design change, I'm proud of the work me and my team did. George created a great game that we built upon and I was sad to see him go. I'm excited for his new endeavor and wish everyone the best of luck!"

It seems that Murray wasn't on the project at the same time as Fan, so again, this isn't a conclusive response to the original statement made by McMillen. One thing is for sure, the truth is out there somewhere. However, until Fan decides to elaborate on his statement, we're not going to know for sure what happened surrounding his departure from EA and Popcap.

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