Maxis has been around for the better part of 30 years, during which time it's developed an awful lot of Sim-stuff, from SimCity to The Sims . Now it's working in something new, which based on a recently-posted job listing may be a free-to-play MMO.
A newly-posted job listing for a Senior Designer at Maxis offers some hints that the studio is looking to take another run at the MMO market. The successful applicant will "define and flesh out the game's core systems," it says, which includes among other features "extensive multiplayer gameplay mechanics, in-game economies [and] technology trees." The requirements for the job are perhaps even more telling. Among them:
- The unique nature of this product requires prior experience in deeply social multiplayer games such as MMOs.
- Deep understanding of principles of game progression design, crafting trees, technology trees, character RPG-style leveling design and mathematical loot progression modeling (i.e. spreadsheet design skills needed)
- Deep understanding of simulation game design, including simulation loops, wants and needs driven behaviors, and systemic pushback.
- Ability to weave Free-to-Play game mechanics with monetization in simple, natural, respectful ways (i.e. design monetization that players respect and feel adds a great deal of value for their money).
- Understanding of Maxis creativity and simulation games, including SimCity, The Sims, and Spore.
- Understanding playing and understanding other games in the creativity space, including Little Big Planet, Minecraft and its popular mods, Roblox, Disney Infinity, Project Spark, and other upcoming efforts.
Based on that, it's not too much of a stretch to infer that Maxis is planning a free-to-play MMO. It's also a natural fit for the company: Previous Sims games have been heavily laden with DLC and the studio launched The Sims Online as a subscription-based MMO in 2002, which was eventually renamed to EA Land and ultimately closed down in 2008.
The past half-decade hasn't been Maxis' best: Spore underperformed, Darkspore was a flop, SimCity was a train wreck and this morning it came to light, to the dismay of many fans, that The Sims 4 may require " premium memberships " for access to various bits of DLC releases. Something new may be exactly what Maxis needs to turn its fortunes around and the "emerging IP" description implies that this might be just that, but given its history I'd be surprised to see it stray too far from home.