Game guru Wright quits EA

April 8, 2009

Wednesday’s announcement that celebrated game designer Will Wright is parting company with Electronic Arts is the latest piece of tough news in what has been a difficult year for EA. Wright, who masterminded the “Sims” franchise along with the newer  “Spore”, is a certifiable legend who has been called the the “Albert Einstein of the gaming business.”

“Sims” and its related spinoffs have sold more than 100 million units over the years.

In February, EA posted weaker-than-expected results, and delayed the release of several games — including “Sims 3″ — causing it to forecast a loss for the fiscal year. The company is cutting 1,100 jobs even as it goes mano-a-mano with larger rival Activision Blizzard.

Cowen analyst Doug Creutz said in a research note he doesn’t expect Wright’s departure to have a near-term impact on EA’s financials: “However, his departure is likely to be a long-term negative as Wright’s games have been some of EA’s most profitable franchises, and Wright has been the leader in game design at EA’s Maxis studio. Wright has also been the most visible and respected talent at EA for many years.”

Wright will turn his focus to a company he founded a few years back, the Stupid Fun Club. EA and Wright will hold an equal stake in the venture, an “entertainment think tank” developing a whole range of content.

“The venture with EA appears to give Wright a much more significant economic stake in his future game designs, as well as more creative control,” Creutz wrote.

(Photo: Reuters)

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