EA reportedly fired Plants vs. Zombies creator after his refusal to make sequel pay-to-win [updated]

Star Wars Battlefront II featured a pay-to-win system involving loot crates which gave players significant advantages like faster regenerating health. Since then the company has pulled micropayments from stores. Need for Speed Payback was the same way. The game limited progression in many ways so that players would buy loot crates to level up and acquire other items faster. Ghost Games introduced a patch to change this yesterday but, you could argue that it shouldn't have been pay-to-win in the first place.

According to a statement made by The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy designer Edmund McMillen, EA has been planning aggressive microtransactions for years and has gone to great lengths to ensure compliance. The incident McMillen discussed occurred between his friend George Fan, the creator of Plants vs. Zombies, and EA after they acquired the franchise. The publisher reportedly fired Fan many years ago after he refused to implement the pay-to-win model into the series. McMillen said the following on the Round Table Live! podcast.

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... 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 spin-offs, this and this". And George was like, "Great, I've got an idea for a sequel!"... He developed this game independently as well, with an independent mindset with a small team of people... 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".

As with any such story, take it with a grain of salt until we have both sides of the argument, but there might be some truth to this. After the podcast went up on YouTube and was picked up by various outlets, George Fan himself issued a brief statement on Twitter. He admitted that he was fired by EA and that he refused to make Plants vs. Zombies 2 a freemium game. Freemium is a pricing strategy where any piece of software is provided free of charge, but money is charged for certain features and virtual goods.

Fan stopped short of revealing the whole story but it seems like he might discuss it at a later time. Individuals outside of the gaming industry always believe that even developers are on board with the idea of having pay-to-win microtransactions but that's really not the case. If this story is indeed true, then it shows us another side to development. Developers are either on board or not. If they aren't, then they risk losing their jobs. We'll keep you posted if we hear about further developments to this story.

Update 11/22/17: It seems that there may be more to the story than what designer Edmund McMillen shared. Allen Murray, another former PopCap employee, said Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan was fired as part of regular layoffs. Murray also wanted to talk to McMillen "offline" to clarify the situation. It's unclear who's account is correct because even Fan admitted he was against making Plants vs. Zombies 2 a freemium game.

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Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.