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Big Fish Games laying off 15% of staff to focus on 'social casino' and 'casual' games

Big Fish Games laying off 15% of staff to focus on 'social casino' and 'casual' games

September 25, 2018 | By Alex Wawro

Yup, it's another layoffs story.

Word is spreading today that Big Fish Games is laying off roughly 15 percent of its workforce, including a number of executives, as it moves to focus on its free-to-play moneymakers.

Notably, the team at GeekWire claim to have a copy of an internal memo in which company president Jeff Karp (who joined recently after stints at places like Sports Illustrated and Zynga) claims Big Fish will take most of that 15 percent out of its "premium business" as it moves to focus primarily on free-to-play games in the "social casino" and "casual" genres.

(It's worth pointing out that earlier this year a federal appeals court ruled one of Big Fish Games' social casino games, Big Fish Casino, constituted illegal gambling under Washington State law.)

"We are sharpening our focus to only develop social casino and casual games — genres where we have earned the right to lead the market," Karp reportedly wrote. "While our journey is not always an easy one — and today was certainly among the most difficult — I’m confident we are starting tomorrow in a position of strength and with a clear path forward to greater success."

It's rough news for the game dev community, especially after last week's one-two punch of Capcom Vancouver and Telltale Games effectively shutting down -- though in Telltale's case, a skeleton crew remains on hand to finish out some remaining work (and at least one ex-employee is filing a class action lawsuit).

GeekWire estimates that 15 percent of Big Fish Games would be roughly 95-100 people, and a recent Twitter update from a Big Fish staffer says 110 jobs were lost; add that to the ~158 people who lost their jobs when Capcom Vancouver was closed, and the ~250 people that were abruptly fired from Telltale (without severance), and you have an estimated 500+ game industry jobs lost in the span of a week.

If you or someone you know has been affected by these Big Fish cuts, you can email Gamasutra to share your story confidentially. 

Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that one staffer tweeting about the layoffs had lost her job, when she in fact is still employed at Big Fish Games. We regret the error. 

Update: A source familiar with the situation tells Gamasutra that roughly 114 people at the Seattle office lost their jobs in this round of Big Fish layoffs. The laid-off personnel were told their health insurance will only last through September and were otherwise given "no notice at all, except for folks who had been through the layoffs at Big Fish previously, and could read the writing on the wall."

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