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New, significant layoffs hit Electronic Arts
New, significant layoffs hit Electronic Arts Exclusive
April 11, 2013 | By Kris Graft




As Electronic Arts repositions itself to take on the changing video game landscape -- and less than a month after CEO John Riccitiello announced his resignation -- the company has confirmed a fresh round of layoffs.

A source who's close to developers who work for EA Mobile in Montreal (but not an EA employee) told Gamasutra about layoffs that happened this morning.

The number of staff affected is unconfirmed by EA, but it's enough to cause a rumble in the Montreal development community. A separate Montreal-based source, citing direct contacts with EA Montreal developers, said 200-250 people were cut today, and all in-development projects have been shut down.

"There will be a transition period for infrastructure, customer support, et cetera, until mid-June," the source said. "200-250 people cut today, the rest gradually." He added that while EA Montreal is technically still open for now, the wind-down will be "gradual," though eventually there will be a "complete shutdown."

[UPDATE 1: EA told us that the layoff numbers from our sources are "too high," but could not confirm exactly what those numbers are. The company rep also said there are no shutdown plans for EA Montreal, and that "EA Montreal studio is not closing."]

An EA corporate representative told Gamasutra that staff layoffs did in fact occur today, and that they were new, on top of the layoffs that were announced last month.

"EA is sharpening its focus to provide games for new platforms and mobile," the statement read. "In some cases, this involves reducing team sizes as we evolve into a more efficient organization.

"These are difficult decisions to let go of good people who have made important contributions to EA, and whenever possible we retrain or relocate employees to new roles. Streamlining our operations will help ensure EA is bringing the best next-generation games to players around the world."

The rep did not confirm whether the layoffs were contained to mobile teams, or whether the layoffs only affected Montreal. One of our sources tell us that EA subsidiary BioWare Montreal is unaffected. [A Tweet from BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy confirmed this.]

Layoffs hit EA Montreal earlier this year, but the company said it would reposition the remaining talent toward mobile games and new platforms.

We will update as we get more details on this developing story. If you're able to shed any light on the topic, please email news at gamasutra dot com.

[UPDATE 2: A Portuguese-language report cited Eduardo Moraes, marketing and sales manager of EA Digital in Brazil, who said the Sao Paulo studio is shuttering. The location focused on social and mobile games.]


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Comments


Mike Kasprzak
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> the company has confirmed a FRESH round of layoffs.

How come layoffs are always 'fresh'? Aren't layoffs more raunchy and stinky?

john talbot
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I imagine they're always 'fresh' in EA's case, seeing as how they never seem to let the previous round of firings/studio closures 'expire' before getting that new batch.

Aaron Eastburn
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"EA Montreal developers, said 200-250 people were cut today, and all in-development projects have been shut down." OUCH!!!

Best wishes to those who got cut. I hope you got some good severance and can find a new job soon!

Amanda dewilde
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Only permanent employees get severance, all the contract workers (which is most of them) get nothing, unemployement if you're lucky.

Amanda dewilde
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Severance is only for those permanent workers, not any of the contract workers. They all get nothing...

Jeff Hamilton
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@Amanda, when my studio was shut down by NCSoft earlier this year, they actually paid severance to all the contractors at the studio in addition to the full-time employees. It may have been a peculiarity of California mass layoff laws, since I doubt any company would pay more out than they had to out of the goodness of their heart, but the point is that contractors sometimes do get severance.

Marc Schaerer
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best wishes from my side too. I hope that all find a new opportunity that enables them to continue to do what they love to do.

Juan Del Rio
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"EA is sharpening its focus to provide games for new platforms and mobile"

" developers who work for EA Mobile in Montreal "

How come this move makes no sense?

Joel Bennett
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It's EA? Does anything they do make sense?

Perhaps that is unduly harsh. They have certainly been a successful company in the past - more so than any company I've worked with. That being said, they aren't exempt from making stupid mistakes (*cough*SimCity*cough*).

Gil Salvado
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No, it doesn't just like microtransactions in fullprice titles do.

Nathan Mates
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I wonder if this is related to the recent Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, which at metacritic is at 55 (X360) / 60 (PS3). Given that Metacritic tends to give 50% just for shipping -- unlike Rotten Tomatoes where a 15% rating is routinely possible -- that's not a good thing. Wikipedia -- hit reload and it might change -- says that EA Montreal was responsible for that. An honest postmortem as to why/how that game shipped in such a condition would be intriguing, and real investigative journalism.

Disclaimer: I was hired by Pandemic Studios in 1998. EA acquired Pandemic in 2008. I left Pandemic (&EA), voluntarily in Nov 2009.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I doubt it is. EA Mobile is the former Jamdat acquisition, as far as my contacts told me, they were kept pretty separate from the console guys. Im surprised by this because Ive always heard EA mobile was doing good, profit-wise.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jeff Hamilton
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They're totally unrelated. EA Montreal (console) was shut down a month or two back - EA Montreal Mobile was a different studio, and is the one affected in this round of layoffs.

E Zachary Knight
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Glad to see that EA is taking that Worst Company in America award to heart. Two Time All Star Champ. That's EA. Want to go for round 3?

Adam Maceika
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I was just gonna post something like this.. Also i am not sure they really know what they want to do.. They say mobile and next gen yet lay off an entire mobile staff. THis company is in need of new leadership..

jin lee
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Still, People would work for EA because some people have no choice....

Groove Stomp
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There's always a choice.

Jeff Hamilton
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As long as they're not laying you off, they're actually not a bad company to work for (or weren't, back in 2007-2010)

Jorge Ramos
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The amount of denial and floundering by the company for their second consecutive *dubious* "award" shows they are already on tract for a three-peat next year.

The original founders of this company, which brought us such imaginative hits as M.U.L.E. would be rolling in their graves (or cubicles) if they knew then that this is what their company would amount to.

At this point, business-wise the only way EA is going to show that they are committed to actually becoming *good* again is by privatizing the company again and severing ties with any non-in-house shareholders they have.

Johnny LaVie
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I think you're "rolling in their graves" expression is funny. It's not THAT old.

Trip Hawkins is still alive as for most of the founders of the company. :)

Eric Geer
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The gaming industry is interesting to me. It's not just EA it's a lot of these big publishers. They go through this flow of hiring and firing employees Rather than keeping an ordinary level of staff, with realistic deadlines and budget. By doing this they are creating employees that are going to be generally disloyal. Meaning because the company doesn't give a damn about them, the employees generally give a damn about the company---you end up sub-par motivations and therefore sub-par creativity. Someone that loves where they work will go the extra mile for half the pay. Someone that doesn't wants to get paid and will only do as much as they need to get by. Is it a surprise that some/many of the scores for EA games have been pretty terrible in recent days? is it a surprise that they got the worst company in america award? Is it a surprise that their tactics are making consumers truly hate the company and in many cases avoiding the purchase of their products?

John Maurer
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That good sir is the elephant in the room, and I thank you for pointing it out. The terrible part about it is that many folks who have gone through this rollercoaster of employment are opting out of the industry. The more technical their prowess the more successful they are at it, and once they get a taste of steady work for good pay, its kinda hard to turn back.

Alan Wilson
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Very true - still reaping the "rewards" of their habit of acquiring everything that wasn't nailed down while they were cash-rich a few years ago. Then add on the inability to change with the times and changing market demands. Now there's a new CEO - so another opportunity to "tighten the belts". Which usually means casualties...

Christopher J
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Well Said!

Shea Rutsatz
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I agree! Here in Vancouver, a LOT of people have been through EA at some point or another - and I don't think I can recall anyone speaking highly of the experience.

Although, many have moved on to start their own studios, and used their time there as a guideline for ways to NOT run a company.

Tiego Francois Brosseau
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According to a poster commenting this information on another news site:

"Having worked at EA Montreal in the recent past, I can say that this studio was mismanaged into the ground, screwing up several brands, one of the best studio environment ever seen in Canada, and disenfranchising a lot of very talented people in the process."

"[...] Overnight, teams were expected to magically ship instant freemium hits built on old brands (chiefly Scrabble and Tetris) while changing as little as possible to the original design because licensors don't want to see their property messed with. Meanwhile, an army of execs, VP's and marketing "experts" appeared out of nowhere to micro-manage pretty much every production. These big-shots were jostling for power in a very destructive way, taking shots on each-other's decisions, canceling each-other out through lengthy approval processes and endless meetings. The results: production stalled, panic gradually set it as the competition whizzed by, and promotions were given to individuals who had little in terms of creativity or skill, but who could navigate a political minefield, usually by saying "yes" to every exec."

Dimitri Del Castillo
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"Meanwhile, an army of execs, VP's and marketing "experts" appeared out of nowhere to micro-manage pretty much every production."

This will continue to be the culture until the last dime is wrung out of the business. Then we get to start again from the ground up. Maybe we'll learn to tell the Veeps and the suits to stay the hell out of our business next time.

Kujel Selsuru
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Sadly money has a tendency to corrupt everything it touches. The whole AAA side of the industry is starting to really look like the tale of King Midas :(

Alex Nichiporchik
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Sounds familiar

Merc Hoffner
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It's not the money that's corrupting here, because we're talking about a company that's barely back to black. The source of problems with internal development is the politics of middle management. It always is, and poor middle management usually festers under poor upper management (the source of problems with overall strategy) - usually because it's behaving like middle management.

I heard a worrying statistic on Horizon - the density of psychopaths in the workforce in the city is 8 times higher than in the general populace (the city here referring to the financial district of the city of London). Psychopaths have little to no empathy but are able to emulate it. As such they are readily able to manipulate relations with other to promote themselves into positions of authority without necessarily demonstrating merit in their roles. In industries that are highly abstracted such as banking (and apparently software development) this is extremely open to abuse. Unfortunately the same facets of managerial organisation select just such tools for company control after the visionary founders are displaced (either through coup, unpredictable failures or age), and perpetuate the problems.

If you read even a little about the very public shenanigans in upper management of HP you would be horrified that organisations with so many lives at stake could be run in such a petty and scary way. It's not about money (they're uncompetitive), it's not about power (they don't make creative decisions that their idiot peers wouldn't), it's about egos run amok.

Thor God
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EA closed down today the mobile studio in LATAM located in Sao Paulo - Brazil. It was a small team of 15 engineers but it seems that everyone was fired today.

Fernando Nicolino
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Yep everyone, only publishing/marketing is there now.

Everyone else got fired.

Mike Griffin
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They've dumped an enormous amount of money into next-gen R&D and teams preparing AAA franchise launch line-ups for PS4 and the next Xbox, plus a king's ransom invested into re-aligning their half-baked mobile strategy. Now comes the cost-cutting headcount reductions wherever there's wiggle room to do so. Hundreds affected by a handful of impulsive decision makers playing catch-up to appease spoiled shareholders.

EA needs to clarify its executive vision.

Erin OConnor
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Keep going EA you're on a roll.
I have every faith and confidence that you can win that worst company in America for a 3rd year in a row!

And totally agree Eric.
Ubisoft and Activision are starting to drag their names through the toilet too.

Seems like the only one out there that is doing good business is the Gabe [newell].

Paul Tozour
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Weird -- I just got contacted by one of their recruiters. Why would they be recruiting if they just had layoffs?

Mike Griffin
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"Err, Bill -- looks like we fired 100 too many people today. My bad?"

"Don't worry Tim, I approved that number last night. It'll get us off the hook with the shareholders for the next month or so while this begins to simmer down."

"So I should start recruiting again, ahead of next month?"

"Yeah dude, go for it. Wouldn't be the first time we screwed up our self-imposed employee churn for temporary operational savings."

"We let go of some pretty talented folks in that bunch..."

"Don't worry Tim, everybody wants to work for EA. It's all good."

"If you say so."

Dimitri Del Castillo
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"Don't worry Tim, I approved that number last night. It'll get us off the hook with the shareholders for the next month or so while this begins to simmer down."

Precisely this. It's just a shell game with numbers. The employees are numbers too.

Johnny LaVie
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Are you young? Are you cheap? That's what counts.

Shea Rutsatz
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@Mike

That's pretty much how I imagine things going down.

Joao Beraldo
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Layoffs are not just about money. If the company decides to focus on something different, they may end up with the sort of employees they don't need. Maybe they had too many, say, game artists when they needed iOS programmers. They will still need to hire iOS programmers even if they are laying off a 100 artists.

In São Paulo's case it's probably the same that happened last year with Glu and Vostu (and previously with Ubisoft): it's too expensive to maintain a studio down here.

John Maurer
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That sounds good on the surface, but lets focus on that point for a minute.

iOS uses objective-c, which is really just a super-set of c, right? You find yourself a good C++ programmer (a language that is also a super-set of c) and chances are they know a thing or two about c, the language from which both are derived. Objective-c has a unique syntax, a style that reminds me of the cobal my father used to write. (I'm talking in terms of readability, please don't take it literally)

C++ also has a syntax style, a very common one, and chances are that a good number of engineers working on iOS know a thing or two about the language. So why are these resources (well, their people, but let's talk like the bean-counters for a minute) with all this common ground being scrapped? Larger developers like Blizzard train their staff all the time, because the more you know, the more you can do. Re-training IMO would at least be equally valuable here.

When you have a solid team (which doesn't mean they are the best in the biz, it means as a group they are capable of great things, disturb the collective, and the whole team is diminished), its STUPID to disrupt that! They are the ones making the product, which makes the money, which keeps the machine churning.

I firmly believe this is a cultural problem in all c-style corporations. Management is at the whims of the shareholder, the shareholder (especially the larger ones) likely have little to no interest in the industry beyond the quarterly profit margin it yields.

Individuals who do know what they are talking about and have the spine to back it up, usually look out for the best interest of the company and its employees. They don't last long though, so sooner or later they are replaced with disconnect elitest CEO's (DEAL WITH IT) and a plathora of middle-management yes men, who knee jerk to every disastor they step into.

The result? A weak industry. No employee loyalty. Diminshed drive, ambition, passion, and innovation. Any of this sound off? Cause I've swallowd this shit for nearly 15 years, and I'm about full.

Rachel Presser
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"Thanks, Bob. I hope your firings go really well!"

Jonathan Murphy
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If they don't get a great new CEO. Yes great. Good won't cut it. EA is going to join THQ in 4 years or less. EA you need to take a risk and hire someone who knows more about making games below budget, on time, without crunch. With less knowledge on the stock market. Because original games is what your companies needs. Not more mergers, social trends, gimmicks, and DRM. Cough you could hire me... cough.

Gil Salvado
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It's an ever ongoing jojo effect. As soon as they make a profit, they'll hire lots of developers again, just to fire them as soon as they make less profit. EA can't just manage to have a steady income to maintain staff and with it know-how.

I guess, that's why we get these occasional great games from them, just to be disappointed with the next releases and sequels. This roller coaster is going to continue until they'll finally hit the wall.

Maria Jayne
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That's not an EA flaw, it's an industry one. Sadly it works because everyone else does it, so there is never a shortage of talented people to rehire.

Alanna Kelly
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Via friend - 20% of staff at EA's customer support center in Galway, Ireland have been dropped.

Glenn Storm
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Best of luck to all those affected.

Christopher Thigpen
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So sad to hear about the layoffs. Looks like EA wants to make it 3 years running.

I find it odd, that in statements EA claims they want to focus on the mobile market, yet all I see are layoffs from their successful mobile teams.

Gord Cooper
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Could you quantify 'successful' teams? I'm actually genuinely interested in which mobile teams under EA's umbrella are considered successful.

Gord Cooper
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Every single person referencing the 'Worst Company in America' award in this thread has singlehandedly invalidated every other scrap of opinion they post regarding this topic. It's tantamount to referencing how great a title is because someone skateboarded onstage at the Spike Awards and played a quickie guitar riff with the game and a bag of Doritos balanced on their top hat.

Alan Boody
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It's a matter of perspective. From the perspective of gamers and many others in the game industry EA is the 'Worse Company in America'. It's just a matter of how you look at 'game publishers/developers' and you base your opinion of worse company on that. So, no, them posting about it doesn't invalidate anything.

I do want to mention that from my own perspective and experience the following developers/publishers have been just as bad at times: Turbine, SOE, Activision, Blizzard, Ubisoft and so forth.

Gord Cooper
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I'm sorry, but any perspective that places a video game company ahead of weapons manufacturers, mortgage brokers that evicted hundreds of thousands of families from their homes, oil companies that polluted entire global ecosystems, et al as 'Worst Company in America' is objectively incorrect.

Michael Joseph
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It's a point worth making but I think everyone mostly knows that these anti-awards are... well... to be taken with a grain of salt. I mean they aren't really real yet perhaps can negatively affect PR somewhat for the "winner."

Previous winners for what it's worth fall into just the sorts of categories you describe.
----------------
From http://consumerist.com/2013/04/09/ea-makes-worst-company-in-ameri
ca-history-wins-title-for-second-year-in-a-row/

or
http://tinyurl.com/c9jbwaq

What did EA do (or not do) that it managed to achieve what none of the previous WCIA champs — Comcast, AIG, BP, Halliburton, RIAA, Countrywide — have ever been able to?

Like many other competitors in the WCIA bracket, EA has repeatedly failed at three core requirements of running a consumer-friendly business:

1. Provide a Product People Want and Like
2. Sell Your Product at a Reasonable Price
3. Support the Products You Sell

Here is an interesting graphic that looks like an NCAA bracket

http://tinyurl.com/bmlbcvb

Christopher Pickwell
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There are worse companies out there certainly but the 'Worst Company in America' award isn't a detailed study, it's an opinion poll. What the study may not say about EA's objective terribleness against the likes of Goldmen Sachs or BP it does speak to just how much EA's managed to piss off their own customers. Where with Goldmen and BP some people will excuse them as a necessary evil there's no such defense for EA, they're in the entertainment business and this sort of behavior can and will kill the company in the long run.

Objectively you're right about who's actually worse for the world but EA's got a special talent for making their own customers really angry at them and that shows in the award.

David Fisk
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EA laying people off....I'm shocked.

You know, it seems more and more these days that the people that run dev studios and publishers have no idea what they are doing. I've met so many inept a-holes that I got out of the biz entirely. It's gotten too big for its own good.

Alex Maggio
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Playfish games in FB (Sims Social, Simcity Social, Pet Society, etc) are closing mid june matching the "There will be a transition period for infrastructure, customer support, et cetera, until mid-June". Playfish forums to be close and brought offline the same day.


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