Electronic Arts is to close its Chicago office (Fight Night, Def Jam
series) with the loss of 146 jobs as part of its recently announced
internal restructuring, according to an internal memo from EA Games head Frank Gibeau.
The memo, which was passed on both to Reuters and Kotaku guest editor Geoff Keighley, who reprinted it in full
on the popular weblog, reveals that the studio, which was opened in 2004 and was the subject of a Gamasutra tour article
last year, will close entirely.
The full memo from EA's Gibeau, who heads up one of the four internal strands
of Electronic Arts' revised structure, is as follows:
"Today we are announcing the closure of our studio in Chicago. This is a difficult decision but we are convinced it's the right thing to do for the future of the Games Label and EA.
Within the EA Games Label, we are committed to running each franchise and facility as a city/state, teams with unique creative identities as well as responsibility for product quality, ship dates and profitability. We recognize that games require large investments and extended development cycles. We're willing to take risks, make long-term investments, and to support teams and individuals between launches. But each team is responsible for staying on a reasonable path to profitability. Sticking to that strategy is what gives us the financial resources and flexibility to take risks on new projects.
Unfortunately, EA Chicago hasn't been able to meet that standard. The location has grown dramatically in the past three years while revenue from the games developed there has not. The number of employees has grown from 49 in 2004 to 146 people currently in the new facility in downtown Chicago. As it stands, EA Chicago has no expectation of hitting our profitability targets until FY2011 or later.
Closing EA Chicago is the toughest decision I've made in my career - one that in no way reflects on the talent and dedication of the people who work there. I've enjoyed their games and consider GM Kudo Tsunoda to be one of the best creative minds in our industry. The people impacted by this decision will be treated fairly - we're offering relocation opportunities to many and there will be outplacement assistance and severance for all eligible employees.
I know this decision will be unsettling to many beyond those who work in Chicago. It's important that you understand that we are willing to take creative risks and make long-term investments in people and projects. But the city/state philosophy demands that every project be committed to delivering a reasonable expectation of profitability. It's a performance commitment that binds us together and ensures we have the resources we need to invest back into our people and creative output.
Finally, when EA announced our quarterly earnings last week, John and Warren referenced facility closures. We had planned to include Chicago in that communication but a personal tragedy in the studio - the death of a colleague - resulted in our delaying the announcement out of respect for his family and friends. I apologize for any confusion or concern that caused."
Gamasutra has reached out to Electronic Arts for further information on the layoff and will update if any further details become available.
: Gamasutra spoke to Electronic Arts VP of Corporate Communications Jeff Brown about the change, addressing a number of issues regarding the layoffs.
Firstly, Brown noted that, although the number of the layoffs was technically close to 150, HR people representing eleven Electronic Arts studios were at the studio "aggressively recruiting EA Chicago people" for other studios within the company, and he hoped that many of them would find homes elsewhere at EA. If not, employees would be offered severance and outplacement.
Secondly, when asked about the fate of the franchises in development at Chicago, Brown first clarified tha the Fight Night
franchise "...was transferred to our sports studio up in Canada" more than a year ago."
As for the two franchises that the studio was associated with at the time of its closure - the Def Jam and Marvel fighting game series - Brown indicated: "We'll be making a statement soon on the future of those franchises."
Finally, when asked about the fate of studio head Kudo Tsunoda, Brown commented: "Kudo is focused right now on helping those people find other jobs and outplacement. He's got an open invitation and a lot of offers to do other projects at EA."]