During the mid-nineties, Maxis founder Will Wright was struggling to alleviate his company’s rapid decline in fortunes, despite initial soaring success with PC title SimCity.
Faced with a growing need to be acquired, Wright established his own floor at Maxis and began work on a new project, one he hoped would return the firm’s fortunes. That project was The Sims.
And one particular day when Will Wright was delving deep into his creative resources, a young Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was walking around the same building, being given a tour of the studio with a view to buy the company.
But it was the beleaguered SimCity 2000 project that was demoed, and today, during a 60-minute keynote speech in Las Vegas, Kotick revealed that the project’s shortcomings gave him cold feet on any buyout deal.
"We thought SimCity 2000 was too much of a mess,” said Kotick. “We never even went to see Will or his project.”
Maxis was eventually bought by EA, going on to transform the PC market and shift the demographics of the gaming landscape.
Kotick’s confession of missing his shot at The Sims came hot on the heels of another, equally embarrassing confession: he could have bought Blizzard, and more, for $700 million.
The high-profile industry exec – who has been hailed in the past by business publication Forbes – said that focusing too much on financial terms had sometimes pushed him into making poor decisions.
"When you’re 50,000 feet above what is going on, and you’re not fully engaged with the creative process, you can miss lots of opportunities," he confessed.
Kotick’s move to expose his fallibility was a clear indication that he, and his company, wants to be distanced from the ugliness associated with being the biggest game publisher in the world, and one with a ruthless will to make its studios profitable.