Will Wright, the video game designer behind hits like "The Sims" and "Spore," is leaving game publisher Electronic Arts. Redwood City, California-based EA said Wednesday that Wright is leaving to run a company called Stupid Fun Club.
The departure ends a 12-year career at EA, during which Wright became one of the industry's most successful developers. The Sims franchise has sold more than 100 million copies, making it the best-selling video game series of all-time.
Stupid Fun Club is a studio he founded in 2001 that develops ideas for film, television and video games. EA said Wednesday that it has invested an undisclosed amount of money in the company and that it will have the right to license any video game themes that its new partner spawns. Wright and EA own equal and controlling shares in Stupid Fun Club. A third, undisclosed investor holds a smaller stake.
Enlisting EA as an investor, Wright said, was a deliberate alternative to venture capital funding. A corporate investor can afford to be more patient and allow Wright, as he put it, to "keep things small, keep things focused on creative people," rather than having to meet financial goals and prepare for an eventual sale or initial public offering.
Holly Rockwood, a spokeswoman for EA, said that EA "absolutely believes in Will's concept" for the company. Working outside of EA made sense, she said, because Wright's interests are broader than EA's video game business.
EA CEO John Riccitiello said he is looking forward to partnering with Wright in his new effort and praised Wright's contributions to EA. "Will is a great designer, and he's been part of a great legacy of globally recognized game franchises like The Sims, SimCity, and Spore," he said. "The teams that have been leading those franchises in recent years have a lot of exciting content coming."
EA's sales have suffered in the slumping economy, prompting a wave of cost cuts including recent layoffs of 1,100 employees, or 11 per cent of its workforce, along with delays in the release of several video games. (See: Recession forces video games publisher Electronic Arts to cut 1,000 jobs)