A week after EA found itself in hot water for its Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box controversy, yet another scandal has hit the iconic game developer and publisher. The Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen alleges Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan was fired after disagreeing with the company’s move to “freemium” microtransaction payments in Plants vs. Zombies 2.
During Nov. 17’s Roundtable Live! episode, McMillen appeared on the show and discussed Fan’s firing with the crew around 40 minutes in. While he was admittedly “slightly fuzzy on the details,” McMillen said EA fired Fan after he disagreed with putting microtransactions into Plants vs. Zombies 2.
“He developed this game independently as well, with an independent mindset, with a small team of people,” McMillen said during the show. “And [his team is] like, ‘hey, you know, let’s make the sequel sort of a sequel,’ and [EA is] like, ‘okay, we’re gonna put it on mobile, and we’re gonna do this pay-to-win thing.’ And he’s like, ‘I don’t know, that’s not a good idea I don’t really wanna do that with my game,’ and they said, ‘you’re fired.’”
McMillen said he was frustrated “for years” over Fan’s treatment, in part because the situation is so newsworthy. And he finally may be getting his wish. The Roundtable Live! video has since gone viral on Reddit, with one r/Games thread on the situation scoring over 17,000 upvotes.
Now, several days after the video went live, Fan clarified the situation over a post on Twitter.
“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,” Fan explained. “That’s all I’ll say on the matter for now.”
There’s some disagreement regarding whether McMillen’s take is accurate, however. Plants vs. Zombies 2 producer Allen Murray disagreed with his rendition of the story, saying McMillen’s take was “not even close to the truth.” In a series of tweets, Murray explained his side of the story as the game’s producer from 2012 to 2013.
“George was never involved during the time I worked on the project,” Murray explained over Twitter. “He was working on a different game, which was super fun! But it never launched. George was unfortunately part of the layoffs in Aug ’12, but I know none of the details surrounding his departure. In Oct ’12 there was a change in franchise leadership that mandated a shift to F2P mobile.”
McMillen, however, disputes the claim.
“You not being involved when [George Fan] was a part is probably [how] you don’t know the story,” McMillen replied. “He did take a stand against the games [sic] free to play direction and was fired after no longer being part of the project, as you know.”
Kotaku’s news editor, Jason Schreier, says two former Popcap employees denied McMillen’s story. Instead, those sources say Fan was unhappy with EA’s direction for Plants vs. Zombies, ventured off to work on other projects with the company, and that he did not work well with EA’s corporate climate overall. Fan was ultimately let go along with others in 2012, those employees explained, but he was never fired simply for resisting EA’s freemium focus.
“In other words, there were no cartoon villains at EA cackling maniacally and firing anyone who refused to make their games pay-to-win,” Schreier wrote in his post.
For now, it remains unclear what exactly happened between Fan, Popcap, and EA when Plants vs. Zombies 2 went down its freemium mobile route. As speculation continues to build throughout the gaming community, hopefully Fan can divulge more information on the matter in the coming days ahead.