Update: A version of this story ran earlier today that stated that PopCap’s staff totaled around 400 employees, meaning that the 146 layoffs within the Electronic Arts subsidiary over the past month had removed 36% of the staff. When Electronic Arts and PopCap began the reorganization process, the studio had close to 600 employees, meaning that close to 25% of the staff was removed.
For every action comes an equal and opposite reaction. That maxim is as true in business as in the physical world. Just one week after Electronic Arts announced that it was expanding its customer support center in Ireland to work on Star Wars: The Old Republic and FIFA 13, the publisher confirmed that it is closing PopCap Dublin, the local branch of the label behind Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies, bringing the total number of EA layoffs at PopCap up to 146 since August.
MCV confirmed that EA shuttered PopCap Dublin on Monday morning, laying off 96 employees. It’s been suspected for weeks that EA might close down the studio after the company announced it initiated an “exploratory consultation” to review PopCap’s future structure. At the end of August, Electronic Arts laid off 50 employees at PopCap’s Seattle studio in addition to others in Dublin. PopCap founder John Vechey stood by the decision to cut staff. “One year ago, we decided to integrate PopCap with EA,” said Vechey, “I know I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else right now. The decision to reorganize was 100 percent made by us, with no pressure from EA. If we didn’t have EA behind us, the cuts would have been worse.”
The cuts did get worse though. EA Labels president Frank Gibeau said that the positions cut in August were “duplicative,” covering the same production and development as other positions in EA’s studios. With the additional 96 employees laid off after this decision, that’s a reported total of 146 employees removed from PopCap’s operations. When EA began its review, PopCap had around 600 employees. In the span of a month, Electronic Arts has cut PopCap’s staff by a quarter.
What this means for the future independence of PopCap is unclear. At this point, PopCap’s brands are potentially more valuable than its staff, and EA could cut costs by moving development of future Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies titles to cheaper teams.
For the burgeoning game development industry in Ireland, the loss of a creative studio is a serious blow. On Sept. 18 EA announced that it was adding 300 jobs to its customer support center in Galway, handling infrastructure for online games like FIFA 13 and Star Wars: The Old Republic. These jobs are more than just fielding customer service phone calls, but they’re still less skilled positions than those offered by a studio like PopCap Dublin.