Way back in 2011, Electronic Arts acquired PopCap. Before the merger, PopCap was one of the best developers in the casual games market. Outside of the names you might recognize, they were responsible for great games like Heavy Weapon, AstroPop, and Bookworm Adventures. After EA’s acquisition, the company focused in on its core franchises, and that familiar stream of new releases was severely cut short. EA seemed to be much more interested in sequels and spinoffs, and that includes the direct sequel to Plants vs. Zombies.
Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time is a mobile exclusive followup that leans heavily on the microtransactions based progression that is common on the platform. Despite the first game being a blockbuster hit that was released on every platform imaginable, PvZ 2 never left phones, as the freemium economy the game was based around was unable to be translated to consoles at the time. This wasn’t always the plan, as PvZ 2 was initially designed as a straight up sequel. However, under the watchful eye of Electronic Arts, things changed.
George Fan was opposed to the Pay to Win road that Plants vs. Zombies 2 was being taken, and was himself designing another game for PopCap. EA laid him off soon after the game’s shift in business model as part of a larger PopCap office closure. Edmund McMillen initially shared what he knew of the story on the Roundtable podcast, with George himself confirming it via Twitter a few days later.
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
In response, former PopCap producer Allen Murray provided more details regarding the exact details of the firing. Reactions on places like Reddit were full of people remembering that the game was hard to play due to these forced microtransactions and that they preferred the original.
Cool. Since this picked up some traction, I should state the facts that I know. I was the lead producer from Jan ‘12 to launch in July ‘13, about 18mo. George was never involved during the time I worked on the project. He was working on a different game, which was super fun!
— Allen Murray (@allenmmurray) November 21, 2017
George has moved on to independent development again, working on Octogeddon for the past several years. Electronic Arts has taken the Plants vs. Zombies name to places never initially conceived of before quietly dropping development on the next Plants vs Zombies title late last year. PopCap itself has suffered from layoffs in 2017 and is focused exclusively on the mobile market.
Update: This article has been updated with new information brought to light by Kotaku‘s reporting on the subject.