Racing games fans surely must have heard of the British developer Slightly Mad Studios and their Project CARS, by many regarded as the peak of their creativity. However, that game and its upcoming sequel (launching tomorrow) could never have happened. During a stream posted on SpotTheOzzie YouTube channel Slightly Mad Studios boss Ian Bell said that there was a moment when Electronic Arts tried to kill the studio and almost succeeded.
Slightly Mad Studios made two successful games for EA: Need for Speed Shift and Shift 2, and the publisher wanted more. Ian Bell says that EA came to him and said, “We’ll give you 1.5 million if you agree not to talk to any other publisher, to agree any other games or work on any other arrangement with any other publisher, and we’ll give you 1.5 million and we’ll sign Shift 3.” He took what he then thought to be a good deal, gave his employees generous bonuses, and the team was ready to start the works.
However, two weaks before they were to start making Shift 3, the game was cancelled. EA then offered Slightly Mad Studios employees jobs and some key members left the studio, as its future looked very grim at the time. “They tried to kill us, they tried to steal our technology as well. They tried to f**k us over – there is no other way to put it. We have no love for EA in this company”, Bell says. The stream in its entirety can be found below (the interesting part starts in 6h 14m 8s).
All in all, Ian Bell managed to save his studio by mortgaging his house, and doing a few small games with the team until they finally made Project CARS, a game that helped turn the tide for Slightly Mad Studios. But if what he says is true, it is hardly surprising that the developer has no love for EA.