George Fan, a former employee of PopCap and EA, wrote on Twitter this week seemingly confirming a widely believed rumour. The rumour began when another developer, Edmund McMillen (creator of Super Meat Boy), spoke of Fan’s firing on the Roundtable Live! podcast.
You can watch McMillen’s statement in the video below (starting at 41-minutes) in which he claims the following. Thanks to Kotaku for the transcript.
This is a semi-unknown story and I hope I’m not stepping on toes with it… It involves a friend of mine George Fan. George made a game called Insaniquarium, he made it ages ago, and it won a lot of awards. He got headhunted by Popcap, and Popcap hired him, sent him off with two more people in a small office and said, “Hey, make a game.” And he said, “OK I’m gonna make Plants vs. Zombies.” And he made Plants vs. Zombies. It was hugely successful.
They got acquired by EA. EA made that game even more successful. And then they were like, “OK we’re gonna focus on this and we’re gonna make a sequel, spinoffs, this this and this.” George was like, “Great, I’ve got an idea for a sequel.” He developed this game independently as well, an independent mindset with a small team of people. It was personal. Knowing the guy I can see: The characters are personal, every bit and piece is something from him, so it was his baby.
And they’re like, “Hey let’s make the sequel, we’re gonna put it on mobile, and we’re gonna do this ‘pay to win’.” And he’s like, “Ah I don’t know, that’s not a good idea, I don’t really want to do that with my game,” and they said, “You’re fired.” And he left… This is such a newsworthy thing, and it’s frustrated me for years that there’s not news stories about this.
With the ongoing controversy surrounding EA and Star Wars: Battlefront II this month, the rumour made its way to Reddit where it spread even further. Fan’s statement on Twitter seems to confirm some of the stories, but he stops short of confirming it all.
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
He only confirms that he was fired by EA/PopCap and that he had opposed freemium in Plants vs. Zombies 2. However, Fan doesn’t say that his firing was a result of his opposition, nor does he say he was working on Plants vs. Zombies 2.
A former PopCap employee, Alan Murray, wrote on Twitter to dispute McMillen’s version of events. He wrote that he was the producer of Plants vs. Zombies 2 and that Fan did not work on the project when he was involved. He also stated that Fan was part of layoffs in August 2012 and that a change in leadership in October of that same year saw the move to F2P mobile games.
The truth surrounding this story seems unclear and we may never know exactly what happened and why. What we can be sure of is that no matter the events, it’s another bad news story in a month of them for EA.