Several years ago.
The original creator of Plants vs. Zombies, George Fan, was reportedly let go by publisher EA several years ago after objecting to the pay-to-win model that was subsequently introduced into the series.
Fan’s story was only recently told by his friend Edmund Mcmillen, the mastermind behind The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy. Speaking on Alex Larrabee’s Roundtable Podcast, McMillen said that Fan was headhunted by PopCap, where he made Plants vs. Zombies with a very small team. It was, as we all know, hugely successful for the company, but McMillen stresses that it was made with an indie mindset back in 2009.
“It was personal,” said McMillen. “Knowing the guy, I can see the characters a personal. Every little piece was something from him. It was his baby.”
EA subsequently took control of Plants vs Zombies after it acquired PopCap in 2011. However, McMillen said that when EA proposed its sequel – Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time – have a pay-to-win model that supports in-app purchasing, Fan pushed back. “He’s like “I dunno, that’s not really a good idea and I don’t want to do that with my game.””
According to McMillen, Fan was immediately fired because of his objections. The game dev is now back making independent games, including the upcoming Octogeddon.
“This is such a newsworthy thing and it’s frustrated me for years that there aren’t news stories about this,” said McMillen.
IGN reached out to Fan after watching the Roundtable Podcast and speaking with McMillen via email, and Fan said he’s going to release a “brief statement” on the story tomorrow.
The report is particularly pertinent right now after fans pushed back at EA’s loot box business model in Star Wars Battlefront 2. EA subsequently disabled in-game purchases from the game, but they will return after changes are made based on player feedback.
Lucy O’Brien is Games and Entertainment Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. Follow her on Twitter.