George Fan created Plants Vs. Zombies but was laid off by EA several years ago, reportedly because he refused to endorse the pay-to-win system that EA wanted to introduce to the game's sequel.
Fan's story was only recently told by his friend Edmund McMillen, the man behind The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy. Speaking on Alex Larrabee's Roundtable Podcast, McMillen said that Fan was recruited by PopCap, where he made Plants vs. Zombies with a very small team.And while the game was successful for the company, McMillen stresses that it was made with an indie mindset back in 2009 where micro-transaction systems were still in their infancy, and even more synonymous with the pay-to-win structure.
"It was personal," McMillen argued. "Knowing the guy, I can see the characters are 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 alleges that when EA that proposed the sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time, have a pay-to-win model that supported in-app purchases, Fan resisted. "He's like "I dunno, that's not really a good idea and I don't want to do that with my game."" Which, we can absolutely understand. Pay-to-win is still a bit of a deathknell for a game, but much less so in 2017 than it was in 2009 or even 2011.
According to McMillen's report, Fan was subsequently fired by EA because of his objections to the micro-transaction system. Fan 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," McMillen said on Roundtable. And we absolutely have to agree with him. Thanks to the backlash against Battlefront II's micro-transaction system, EA has taken them entirely offline. However, they will be back.
And similar micro-transaction systems are becoming more and more prevalent as games companies strive to make money off of extended play games. And the push-back just gets worse and worse as more and more games release with loot box systems designed to capitalize on the pay-to-win structure. Fans have even petitioned the ESRB to classify loot boxes as "gambling" as a way to curb their use in games. Sadly, the ESRB decided to side with games companies, and as much as we hate it, we can't quite fault their logic.
Updated: Fan released a statement on Twitter this afternoon which served to distance himself from McMillen's statements. You can read it in full below.
Regarding recent rumors, it is true I was laid off by EA/PopCap, and also true that I was against making PvZ2 a freemium game. That's all I'll say on the matter for now
— George Fan🧢🦎 (@thegeorgefan) November 21, 2017