Following rumours, speculation and denials, PopCap Games has confirmed significant job cuts. Co-founder John Vechey has announced a "Reduction in Force" to its North American operation, while the developer's Dublin, Ireland studio is also in doubt, unless an exploratory consultation discovers "a path to improve profitability" without having to close up shop.
Today’s news is something you expect periodically from a company in a fast-changing industry, but it sucks if you’re one of the people losing his or her job. These people are our friends and we don’t like doing this.
Vechey explains that roughly 50 North American jobs have gone, from a total of around 300. Dublin houses more than 80 developers. However, due to an "aggressive" hiring strategy over the past year or so, PopCap will end 2012 with the same amount of employees as it started with.
This decision might sound strange, admits Vechey, who explains:
In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play and pay for games. Free-to-play, social and mobile games have exploded in popularity. That happened fast. Surprisingly so. The change in consumer tastes requires us to reorganize our business and invest in new types of games on new platforms. It’s a completely different world from when we started.
When Duke Nukem creator George Broussard spoke about shakeups and EA restructuring, this is what he meant. While quick to point out that parent company EA is emphatically not behind the decision to reorganise the studio, Vechey describes "managing costs, improving efficiency and maintaining a profit", as the company is forced to adapt in order to be able to invest in new IP.
One year ago, we decided to integrate PopCap with EA. I know I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else right now. EA has provided a lot of resources for us to grow and allowed us to operate as an independent studio. I’ve seen speculation that EA is no longer letting PopCap run independently, and that’s simply not true. The founders, CEO, and executives who were in charge of PopCap still are.
If we didn’t have EA behind us, the cuts would have been worse.
After 12 years in the industry, PopCap founders "never imagined the games we'd make" - but they also never imagined the challenges and difficult decisions they'd be faced with.
Today's news follows further rumours that a team has been split off from PopCap proper, and is apparently working on a team multiplayer shooter, based on super-popular franchise Plants vs. Zombies. While nothing official has been said about the project, the developer has confirmed development of an as-yet-unnamed PvZ sequel.
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Jimmy the Geek