Electronic Arts has decided to shut down EA Phenomic. The Ingelheim, Germany-based studio was responsible for Command Conquer: Tiberium Alliances.
"As part of EA's realignment in recent weeks, we have announced internally a small adjustment to some development staff to better focus our teams against priority growth areas," EA told GI.biz today. "The decision to let people go is not something we take lightly and we are working to ensure that impacted employees are treated fairly and with respect for their contributions to EA, and with assistance to find other job opportunities.
"These are hard but essential changes as we focus on delivering great games and showing players around the world why to spend their time with us."
EA Phenomic was founded back as Phenomic Game Developer in 1997 by Volker Wertich. Wertich was best known as the creator of the real-time strategy series Settler. True to its founder, Phenomic focused on creating strategy games for the next decade and a half.
Phenomic' signature series was SpellForce, which melded real-time strategy and role-playing game elements. Players created a hero character with custom skills and equipment. As they completed quests and killed enemies, they leveled up and grew more powerful. In addition to controlling their heroes, players also had to manage a base and raise an army. Blizzard would use a similar combination of RTS and RPG in Warcraft III. The SpellForce series spanned two games and four expansion packs in total.
After being acquired by EA in 2006, Phenomic began work on BattleForge. BattleForge is a blend of RTS and collectible card games. Players assemble a deck of cards by purchasing booster packs or trading with other players. Then, they used these cards to summon units, buildings and spells in battle. It was one of EA's first forays into the free-to-play market, along with shooter Battlefield Heroes.
The studio continued their work in the F2P space in years ahead. Lord of Ultima and Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances are both free, browser-based strategy games. Like BattleForge, these games are still being operated to this day. It's not clear how Phenomic's closure will affect them. The games could be closed or simply set adrift with no additional patches or content. Either way, it's not good news for their players.
It's surprising to see a free-to-play studio shuttered by EA, considering the studio's fondness for microtransaction-driven games. However, in recent years EA bought PopCap and founded Victory Games to shore up their F2P development. In the end, it seems they considered EA Phenomic to be replaceable.