-Origin and early acclaim
Maxis was founded in 1987 by Will Wright and “idea guy” Jeff Braun to help publish SimCity on home computers. Before then, the game was only available on a limited basis on the Commodore 64 due to few publishers showing any interest in porting it. The reason for this is because SimCity wasn’t a traditional game that had definite “win” and “lose” conditions. The title went on to become, statistically, one of the most popular and successful video games of all time.
The SimCity series has since been updated to include SimCity 2000 (1993), SimCity 3000 (1999), SimCity 3000: Unlimited (2000), SimCity 4 (2003). It also released some non-sim titles, such as 1991’s RoboSport and the well-known 1995 3D Pinball for Windows, which has been included as one of the standard system games in many Windows releases.
After such success with the SimCity series, Maxis tried various other Sim- titles. Some of these attempts include SimAnt, SimFarm, SimEarth, SimLife, SimTower, and SimIsle. Maxis was also approached by companies to design business aids; SimRefinery is one example. The success of these franchises varies, but none matched that of the original SimCity. Maxis’ hit The Sims is the only notable exception.
-Origin of the name
Contrary to popular belief, the company’s name was not based on the words “six AM” spelled backwards. Rather, it was derived from a formula suggested by Jeff Braun’s father: computer game companies should have two-syllable names and should include an ‘x’. This is confirmed in an interview with a Maxis employee on a bonus disc released with The Sims: Makin’ Magic. It was only later realized that the name is “six AM” backwards.
After the immense success of SimCity, Maxis experimented with different genres. However, their new games, including The Crystal Skull and SimCopter, were commercial failures. They also acquired Cinematronics to create a game called Crucible. Heavy losses and lack of direction led Maxis to begin considering acquisition offers.
–Acquisition by EA
Electronic Arts (EA) completed its acquisition of Maxis on July 28, 1997. Compared to other companies acquired by EA, such as Origin Systems and Westwood Studios, the absorption of Maxis has taken a slower pace, and the company has retained some of its original staff, including Will Wright. Products were shipped under the Maxis logo for several years, but in 2004, The Sims 2 bore only the Electronic Arts logo on the box cover (although Sims 2 displays the Maxis logo at game start, and on the reverse side of the box). As of October 18, 2006, and the release of The Sims 2: Pets expansion pack, the Maxis title has been omitted from the game’s start. Also, up until The Sims 2: FreeTime, the logo of Maxis was used for a button in the Options panel of the game to display the credits. In FreeTime, the Maxis logo has been replaced by a symbol of the Sims plumbob. However, it appears briefly during the opening of their newest game, Spore, where the EA logo collapes into a black hole vortex which absorbs the Maxis logo and other game icons. It is uncertain if this meant as an hidden reference to EA’s acquisition behavior.
For many years, Maxis was a traditional studio located in Walnut Creek, California (and before that, Orinda, California), but in February 2004 the division was folded into EA’s Redwood Shores headquarters.
Will Wright‘s studio is located in Emeryville, California.