Report: Plants vs Zombies Creator Fired by EA for Refusing Pay-to-Win System (Update)

Update:

George Fan has tweeted a message confirming he was let go from EA, and that he was against making a “freemium” game.

Original Story:

With all the ruckus over microtransactions, loot boxes and the like, one company has been the punching bag of gamers more than anyone else, and that’s EA. It seems we can add one more story to add to the list.

Over on YouTube podcast BaerTaffy (via Reddit), Round Table Live! featured video game designer Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac) who talked a bit about the recent controversy surrounding a recent game and alleged pay-to-win trappings. While talking about the recent hot button topic, McMillen namedropped Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan, and how he (Fan) was fired for refusing to add pay-to-win elements in Plants vs. Zombies 2. We’ve transcribed what McMillen shared below.

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 can…as 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. 

You can watch McMillen tell the tale in the video below. It’s around the 40:55 mark.

Important to note: Fan being fired from PopCap (who was then already acquired by EA) is nothing new, since it was reported way back in 2012, though the actual reason for Fan’s termination has never been revealed until now.

McMillen also mentioned that Fan has not signed any NDA of any kind, which means he can talk about it. We’ve reached out to Fan and if we hear back, we’ll let readers know what he says. Fan is currently working on an indie game about a mutant octopus called “Octogeddon.”

Does it surprise you that the industry seemed to have this problem even as far back then? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

  • Den Kovacs

    This is so fucked up if true. I understand being profit driven but where is the line when it comes to being profit driven. Are they that hellbent on it?

  • GrimmyReaper

    Assuming this is true (and I wouldn’t be shocked if it is) …

    It shows how fucked up publishers are. Once more. Again. And honestly, I don’t really get it. Kojima is the name associated with Metal Gear Solid. Naughty Dog with Uncharted and Crash Bandicoot and Jax and Daxter. CD Project Red with The Witcher 3. DICE with Battlefield and Respawn with Titanfall etc.

    These publishers should be kissing the asses of the developers. They are the ones making the games! They are the ones making the product! How did it get so far that developers are so powerless against these money-grabbing, dumb founded, braindead, greedy, scummy, bait-and-switch, LYING publishers?

    I hope that guy gets a new job at a better place. One that is fair to developers AND consumers. Take lessons from CD Project Red, EA. Whether this is real or not, take lessons from them EA. THAT is how you do it.

    • david watt

      Money …. the awmser you are looking for is money i would much prefer it if devs simply published thier own titles

  • JustAidah

    I hope this gets picked up. Great time to damage EA even more.

    • Spread the word. 🙂

    • We aren’t out to get them to be clear. We just need to bring these types of stories to light so that we can prevent stuff like this from happening.

      • obz

        this is ea’s modus operandi, buy small studio, use content to profit, fire everyone, fuck the franchise up, find a new target.
        EA needs to die like these companies it has killed.
        Maxis
        Mythic
        Bullfrog
        Origin
        Westwood
        DreamWorks
        Phenomic
        Black Box Games
        Pandemic
        PlayFish
        NuFX
        this isnt a one off, just another one to add to the list.

        • Rj

          RIP Westwood and Maxis. We will avenge you…

  • Reynold Soliteur

    Get Mister Fan to spill the whole story then we continue to piss on EA and make sure they go under, the gaming landscape is better off without them.

    • We have contacted him, and waiting on what he has to say.

      • Jose

        The sooner he responds, the better. I want to hear it from him.

  • datdude

    He should write EA a nice thank you note, praising them for releasing him from their toxic environment of greed, shame, and douchebaggery, granting him freedom to live and breath fully liberated from EA’s colossal bullspit.

    • Thug Beaver

      Probably free from a source of income, too. No big loss: the Revolution calls, Comrade!

      • Moxie Miscellany

        So… despising a company’s blatantly unethical practices = communism?

        Something tells me there’s a lot of companies willing to hire someone as talented as Mr. Fan. It’s EA’s loss.

  • FultoniteIWasWayOff

    Makes perfect sense. PvZ 2 immediately felt soulless and overcomplicated by item bloat compared to the original and I barely played it as a result. Way to ruin everything, EA!

    • Pay2Win makes games not fun, and I wouldn’t doubt that retaining a certain group of players becomes difficult when introducing these systems in.

      • Moxie Miscellany

        Unfortunately, EA doesn’t learn. That, or they don’t care about retaining players so much as baiting a bunch of unwitting new players in. I mean, that’s the approach they take to their employees: keep a high turnover rate because it’s cheaper to hire a bunch of new people rather than invest in long-term people.

  • John Bowen

    Employee refuses to do job, gets fired.

    • KrepSensei

      Good we have buttheads like you to TL;DR it for us, read the article before you make it sound oversimplified.

      • Version_8

        Random guy on the internet doesn’t read article, makes uniformed comment about article, gets called out.

        Ah, it’s like poetry.

        • Thug Beaver

          And there’s the typo in the comment calling out someone for being dumb. This is just a cycle, isn’t it?

          • Not My Name

            And you wrote a run-on sentence. You’re right. About the cycle thing. Except for one mispelled word, at least his/her grammar was cohesive.

            • Stray Donovan

              Sentences shouldn’t start with the word and.

            • Not My Name

              Yes!!! I was waiting for this one. You took the bait. “Never start your sentence with a conjunction” is an old wives tale. It’s a stylistic prereference.
              https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/words-to-not-begin-sentences-with

            • Stray Donovan

              Well played sir.

            • Thug Beaver

              I’m assuming that ‘About the cycle thing.’ is there to intentionally continue this chain, so I won’t say anything about that…

              …but was my comment actually a run-on sentence? I thought that ‘calling out someone’ would be an adjectival phrase describing ‘the comment,’ and then ‘for being dumb’ would be adverbial phrase describing ‘calling’. Both of these can be legally added without commas after an independent
              clause (I thought).

            • Not My Name

              Yea, man. That. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I’m just a math major.

    • Stray Donovan

      I hope your workplace tells you to stick your dick in a toaster, by your logic you’ll do it or justifiably be fired.

    • Siege Torpedo

      People like you are the reason the gaming industry is going to shit.

    • J Johnson

      Hmmm…

    • Jamess

      Employee displays strong moral principles, gets fired.

    • Gezzer50

      So, if your employer told you to dump toxic waste would you do it? How about work a 80 hour work week as an hourly worker with no OT? Or maybe just short change a customer ever now and then? Still fine?

      Yes EA has a right to fire him if he refuses to comply. Doesn’t make what EA was trying to force him to do alright all of a sudden. It just means he took a stand for the people he perceived as his customers and the integrity of the IP he created. And EA fired him for it. Doesn’t all of a sudden make EA a poster child for integrity you know? Just another shitty employer, like the scores of other ones in the world.

  • Eddie Smith

    Loved the first, it was a masterpiece. I heard there was a second but people said forget about it, just like Star Control 3 apparently.

    • PvZ2 started reasonable, but the latest updates made it unplayable.

      • Atyka

        Funnily enough the same is true of the FPS spinoff “Garden Warfare”. on Launch it was a bizzarely fun game. Then post launch updates turned it into P2W shtshow.

  • Barbara Dunkelman

    Fuck niggers

    • I’m usually lenient when it comes to a lot of things, but racist shit is not one of them. Consider this your first and only warning. You can argue, and even name-call each other without resorting to racial slurs.

      If you want to say racist stuff to people go elsewhere. That’s not welcome here.

      • David Drake

        Have Zero tolerance for this shit, man. Remove it.

        • Stray Donovan

          This

        • l0rd3_Loki

          fuck you David, you pussy.

          • David Drake

            Oooooooo! Ultra edgy bro!

      • Barbara Dunkelman

        Fuck *&&#%$. Is that better?

    • Stray Donovan

      that’s great input.

  • Darth Vader™

    EA needs to die

    • Stray Donovan

      slowly.

  • datboi

    EA:
    “Look at me, look at me, I am the captain now.”

    Fans with the money:
    “actually…”

    • I Put The F.U. In Fun

      The few thousands of fans who are willing to spend 100’s, even 1000’s of dollars on in-game items, and are the sole people EA and companies like it are looking for when incorporating microtransactions into videogames:

      “Aye-aye, Captain!”, they then salute EA and drop them 1000’s. They dont care about you, but they care about the gamblers.

      • Alex Russell

        It’s more complex than that @disqus_8lpx6wyQDV:disqus but you’re partially right actually. The only issue with going all-in on the whales is that free to play players and people who only pay smaller amounts are “content” in a way for those whales. Even if it’s a single player experience like this playing a game that is played by millions is more enjoyable for most people. This effect is more noticeable in MMO’s, where microtransactions also work, but have to be managed even more carefully, but it’s true in all games like this.

    • Alexander Pritchard

      Rubbisshhhhhhh. EA is one of the most financially successful companies on the planet. I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks about them. The microtransaction scheme is working.

      Would be nice if EA put their money into smaller, very capable teams, though.

      • Gezzer50

        So money is the only measure of a man or company right? EA’s great because they make lots of money right? Doesn’t really matter how, as long as they do right? Why not branch out to child slavery if it increases the profits right?

        EA makes lots of money because it is predatory by nature. With it’s studios, it’s employees, and it’s customers. All are resources not just to use but to abuse. It has a very long history of abuse dating back to when Trip Hawkins left the company.

        They’re a perfect example of everything wrong with big multi-nationals. They are run by a small number of elite top officers that make obscene amounts of money. That are in turn dictated to by a board that makes obscene amounts of money. To what end? So that stockholders can trade their stock and make obscene amounts of money.

        What’s missing in all this? Passion. Passion for creating great games. Passion for giving customers great experiences. It’s why EA is constantly churning the development waters. Buy a passionate successful developer. Abuse their IP and passion to maximize profit potential. Close down the husk of a company that’s left when they’re finally sucked dry.

        But really, the big problem isn’t that they are abusive. The big problem is that everyone complains and then goes out and buys the latest “shiny shiny” they dangle in front of everyone. If people refuse and get off the EA treadmill they’ll go belly up and we’ll all be better for it. Think it’s going to happen? Naw.. me neither….

        • Alexander Pritchard

          Yeah, I agree. Boycott EA games.

      • Make all the money in the world it still won’t change the opinions of your customers because even those who buy microtransactions hate them to a certain degree.

  • I love the original Plant vs Zombies and it sucks when the update it. Those are the good times and good thing I saved the original PvZ to my hard drive.

  • paulmcelroy

    The lesson here is have a good prenup. You bring PvZ to the table, make sure you get to leave with it when you’re done eating.

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  • Jose

    Wow. George Fan should be praised to high heaven for doing the right thing. EA is like Unicron and anything they touch, they corrupt and then destroy.

    • Liggerstuxin

      And George Fan is a UNICORN.

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  • Miguel Antunes

    emborquem-me o pessegueiro..

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  • Dave Dann

    wtf EA you scum bags

  • mo

    I’m so mad about this. I loved Insaniquarium when I was a kid. Then PvZ is still a fun game for me I’m happy to find out they’re made by the same guy! But that poor creator, being knocked down by stupid companies. It makes me so mad.

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  • Is this how EA actually works? I mean, come on, he really has his career and now EA destroyed it! That’s messed up. I can’t believe this. I would never work for EA. EVER.

    • Mack Ashworth

      Yeah, it isn’t great!

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