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Author Topic: Layoffs Hit EA Studios Including Tiburon, Black Box, Redwood Shores, Mythic  (Read 4460 times)
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Blackjack
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« on: November 09, 2009, 10:19:02 PM »

Blackadar mentioned the Mythic layoffs in an MMO thread. Thought it might be worth a thread here since EA's mass layoffs (1,500 people at last count) hit across all platforms...

Layoffs Hit EA Studios Including Tiburon, Black Box, Redwood Shores, Mythic
http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=25999

EA Layoffs?
http://www.bluesnews.com/cgi-bin/board.pl?action=viewthread&threadid=104125

Electronic Arts posts 2Q loss, plans layoffs
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g0cnnuEWwC0FUSIU6wMxVI7nPRAQD9BS8LH01

Electronic Arts sets 1,500 job cuts as losses grow
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/electronic-arts-sets-1500-job-cuts-as-losses-grow-2009-11-09

They spent $275 million (think how many devs THAT would pay  icon_razz) on Playfish, a social network gaming house (http://www.playfish.com/). I've played a couple of EA titles on my iPod Touch.

I guess what would worry me if I was an EA dev is that if EA suddenly gets "Paranormal Activity" syndrome, decides it's better to have tiny dev teams working on cheap games (which sounds so opposite of what we associate with EA, it isn't even funny), I'd imagine a lot more jobs will go flying.

Mythic, right here in my Virginia near my alma mater (George Mason U.) apparently lost a hefty chunk of its dev team, if the employee Tweets cited by Kotaku and others are accurate. I noticed one of the referenced Tweets has already been taken down. From my previous experience covering layoffs, sometimes "not talking to the press" or "not talking publicly" is a condition of receiving a severance package.

It wouldn't surprise me if Facebook, Twitter et al are making that type of condition harder too enforce and track.

[If we already have a thread on this, I'll remove this; just let me know -bj]
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2009, 02:01:03 PM »

The followups are that EA said it canceled more than a dozen games, and that this is all part of the "transformation" of EA.

Also some scuttlebutt about their "revitalizing" the Medal of Honor series (most bets are moving into modern combat like Call of Duty):
http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/700564/Medal-Of-Honor-Revitalization-To-Be-Unveiled-Soon-.html
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2009, 04:57:01 PM »

The layoffs here in Vancouver at EA Canada are  brutal. There's talk of a complete shutdown of Blackbox which just had layoffs last year when it was moved out of downtown Vancouver to the main studio in Burnaby. I'm not surprised, as Blackbox fell flat on their faces with NFS Pro Street, but it also means that Skate is probably a dead EA IP now. If there's any game I'd like to see deep sixed out of the studio here it's NBA Live - not that I have anything against basketball, but that game has really been an embarrassment and albatross for them. The good news is that of what will remain, the majority will be FIFA and NHL staff - 2 franchises that are well reviewed and well received. All told; I won't be surprised if the Burnaby studio is reduced from 1500 to 1000 employees

I'm a bit WTF about Flying Fish too. Yes it's a company that makes games for an emerging handheld and web market, but EA has been particularly lame at leveraging success out of such markets. My bet is it's going to be an acquisition they regret in a few years.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2009, 06:00:58 PM by kronovan » Logged
kronovan
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2009, 06:10:58 PM »

Quote from: Blackjack on November 10, 2009, 02:01:03 PM

Also some scuttlebutt about their "revitalizing" the Medal of Honor series (most bets are moving into modern combat like Call of Duty):
http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/700564/Medal-Of-Honor-Revitalization-To-Be-Unveiled-Soon-.html

Based on the fact that MoH Airborne did poorly, I've been expecting this for some time. This also probably means there won't be another MoH for Wii. That's a shame because IMO it was an excellent game and the best shooter on the Wii yet; including light gun games. Even if they plan on a new Wii version it won't be the same dev team, as there's no way the EA studio in Burnaby has enough staff now.
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2009, 10:55:49 PM »

I'm still employed.  For today at least.  slywink
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Blackjack
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2009, 11:08:13 PM »

I actually had some fun with MOH: Airborne. I just never cussed so much at the absence of "save anywhere/anytime" as I did in that game. I must've replayed giant swarths of MOH: Airborneness over and over and over ad nauseam out of sheer stubborness. The German AI troops must've thought I was a zombie ("We keep killing this idiot over and over but he won't quit!") I did finish the game but it was more a sense or relief, than of satisfaction.

To me, the biggest mistake of EA's handling of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault's blockbuster success in 2002 was not stepping in and gobbling up - but allowing to remain "independent," - the dev team (2015 in Oklahoma). Instead, most of the Team Leads ran off to form Infinity Ward, do Call of Duty and the rest is history for Activision. disgust Then again, that's probably why they ran off, they presumably didn't want to get jerked around by EA and told to do.

I'll be curious if the TransformedTM EA thinks any differently, and treats whatever devs they have left differently too.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2009, 11:13:34 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2009, 03:08:07 AM »

Quote from: Butterknife on November 10, 2009, 10:55:49 PM

I'm still employed.  For today at least.  slywink

Hang in there Butterknife, I wish you all the luck.  paranoid  Luckily none of my friends at EA Canada got the axe. Most of them in the gaming biz left EA on their own free will some time ago anyways.  icon_razz
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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2009, 03:35:58 AM »

Quote from: Blackjack on November 10, 2009, 11:08:13 PM

I actually had some fun with MOH: Airborne. I just never cussed so much at the absence of "save anywhere/anytime" as I did in that game. I must've replayed giant swarths of MOH: Airborneness over and over and over ad nauseam out of sheer stubborness. The German AI troops must've thought I was a zombie ("We keep killing this idiot over and over but he won't quit!") I did finish the game but it was more a sense or relief, than of satisfaction.

I actually never played the 360 version or Ariborne, but always meant to. I enjoyed the demo and I'm interested in the historical campaign it revolves around. Your description of your experience is doing a good job at discouraging me from playing it in the near future though. I just came off of surviving that damn, damn spillway in R6V and can do without mission restarts for a while.  icon_confused

Quote
To me, the biggest mistake of EA's handling of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault's blockbuster success in 2002 was not stepping in and gobbling up - but allowing to remain "independent," - the dev team (2015 in Oklahoma). Instead, most of the Team Leads ran off to form Infinity Ward, do Call of Duty and the rest is history for Activision. disgust Then again, that's probably why they ran off, they presumably didn't want to get jerked around by EA and told to do.

In other words, they didn't value the very valuable human capital they had. Yup, that sounds like a standard, universal EA trait.

Quote
I'll be curious if the TransformedTM EA thinks any differently, and treats whatever devs they have left differently too.

About as certain as death, taxes and eventual harddisk failure, that they won't slywink
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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2009, 05:15:49 AM »

looks like even more are about to be added to the bonfire.
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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2009, 09:56:47 AM »

Quote from: CeeKay on November 11, 2009, 05:15:49 AM


Wow the Command & Conquer series is gone and Pandemic is probably shutting it's doors, now there's a true sign of EA's ineptitude! I'm not entirely surprised about C&C, since so many other high profile strategy game devs have recently been shut down, but how did things go so wrong so quickly at Pandemic? Just 4 years ago they were pumping out SW Battlefront 2 to huge sales success. Hopefully the C&C team can find another publisher or merge with another strat dev. Oh wait this is EA isn't it, they'll maintain a firm grip on that franchise -i.e. Janes Attack Squadron and Flight Unlimited- and never let it see the light of day again!  icon_evil

So is this what the industry has come to under recent economic pressure; strategy games have come to a fate this decade reminiscent of Flightsims in the 90's? Other than the next Halo Wars, next Total Wars sequel and Relic's next RTS, what's going to be left?
« Last Edit: November 11, 2009, 12:10:17 PM by kronovan » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2009, 02:32:12 PM »

What with all the Modern Combat sales spectacular going on, I'm kind of surprised Pandemic didn't revisit its Full Spectrum Warrior roots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Spectrum_Warrior). Maybe 2004-2005 was Too SoonTM, and about now would've been a good time to re-visit it.

Saboteur sounded promising and clever, but it took an awful lot of development time. Probably they would've been better off doing something quickly, called "Big Dumb Loud First Person Shooter!" Maybe that would've raked in the necessary revenue to impress EA brass.  disgust
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Despite appearances, and the franchise's strong name, it was suggested that profits were low in comparison to other EA properties, which was a key factor in the firm's decision of which games and studios to axe.
I'm not really sure what's profitable at EA anymore beyond sports games.

It must not be much fun to be working on a game and be told, "When the game goes gold, you're hitting the unemployment line." Yeah, positively inspirational. Though I guess that's better than having it sprung on you at the last minute.
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« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2009, 04:22:13 PM »

Quote from: kronovan on November 11, 2009, 09:56:47 AM

Quote from: CeeKay on November 11, 2009, 05:15:49 AM


Wow the Command & Conquer series is gone and Pandemic is probably shutting it's doors, now there's a true sign of EA's ineptitude! I'm not entirely surprised about C&C, since so many other high profile strategy game devs have recently been shut down, but how did things go so wrong so quickly at Pandemic? Just 4 years ago they were pumping out SW Battlefront 2 to huge sales success. Hopefully the C&C team can find another publisher or merge with another strat dev. Oh wait this is EA isn't it, they'll maintain a firm grip on that franchise -i.e. Janes Attack Squadron and Flight Unlimited- and never let it see the light of day again!  icon_evil

So is this what the industry has come to under recent economic pressure; strategy games have come to a fate this decade reminiscent of Flightsims in the 90's? Other than the next Halo Wars, next Total Wars sequel and Relic's next RTS, what's going to be left?

well, C&C 4 is supposed to finish the story, but with this news I wonder if we're going to get a quality product.  nothing scream demotivation like knowing once you're done with a game you're gone.
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« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2009, 04:49:20 PM »

Quote
So is this what the industry has come to under recent economic pressure; strategy games have come to a fate this decade reminiscent of Flightsims in the 90's? Other than the next Halo Wars, next Total Wars sequel and Relic's next RTS, what's going to be left?
Since Microsoft axed Ensemble Studios in "EA-like" fashion upon Halo Wars completion, I'm curious who'd do the followup.  icon_frown I'm also puzzled because it apparently sold like gangbusters upon release. Which makes MS's decision to disband Ensemble before it saw initial sales numbers for Halo Wars seem pretty short-sighted.

I guess it's up to Blizzard to "save" the "Big Budget RTS" genre before it becomes extinct. Relic does great work imho, but nothing they've done has quite become a blockbuster. A Cynic would say they need to turn Company of Heroes into a "modern combat" game and then *poof* it would magically sell a million copies. Probably it's not quite that simple.

If I were to be an optimist (I've been accused of being "gloomy" most of my life  icon_razz), I'd say that all this layoff and disbanding means you'll probably see a lot of small-but-energetic startup studios who will try to prove they can be successful as independents working on a smaller scale. Though I imagine start-up money/funding is tough to get right now.

Supposedly Ensemble's former folks have already formed a couple smaller start-ups. I'm sure Pandemic, if it really is disbanding, will probably give birth to some new studios too.
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« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2009, 04:55:58 PM »

Quote from: CeeKay on November 11, 2009, 04:22:13 PM

well, C&C 4 is supposed to finish the story, but with this news I wonder if we're going to get a quality product.  nothing scream demotivation like knowing once you're done with a game you're gone.

Considering there was supposed to be problems with recent PC C&C's -don't know personally as I didn't play them- I can't see how 4 wouldn't have problems on release. I guess that 4 will be finished is some consolation for RTS fans, but the list of games in the pipeline is getting short. I actually just started to get into the genre via Halo Wars and End Wars on the 360. I was hoping to see sequels to those games, but with the general downturn for the genre, I'm starting to wonder if even that will happen.
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« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2009, 05:04:26 PM »

Pandemic also falied to complete a Batman game that got cancelled.  Not only was that probably costly but EA has to see that as a big missed opportunity considering the success of Dark Knight as weall as Arkham Asylum.  Frankly I'm not surprised to see them on the chopping block- it seems like it has been a while since they've had a well received game.  
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« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2009, 06:32:38 PM »

Can't say I'm too surprised about Pandemic either, but what surprises me is how the quickly the quality of their titles took a downturn. Battlefront 2 was an excellent and solid game IMO - it still has the 2nd largest XBL online community for Xbox games. Dark Reign 2 was also a quality game back in its day and it seems most people felt the same for the Full Spectrum games. For recent games though, it seemed a universal consensus that Mercenaries 2 was a disappointment and I know from personally playing LotR Conquest that it fell short of expectations.

I guess the question is where did the the slide in quality begin, while they were with Elevation Partners or after the EA merger?
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« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2009, 07:10:31 PM »

I just saw this pic on another site when I went searching for exact layoff numbers at EA Canada.

This is the EA Canada HQ in Burnaby, BC and is the building I've often referred to in other posts as the Frank Lloyd Wright factory. I've been meaning for a while to take some snapshots myself, but this will do for now. The building is actually more impressive than what the picture shows, as it's built into the side of a hill which isn't visible here. The portion on the left of the brick wall is fairly recent and the overall look used to be better when it wasn't there. Behind it there's a regulation size soccer field where much of the motion capture for FIFA is done - unlockable in some FIFA games. It was built on a beautiful meadow that caused a lot of controversy with environmentalists when the city sold it to EA. It's also the meadow that my buddies and I illegally rode our dirt bikes through when we were kids. slywink I'm just hoping there's enough employees left to prevent it from being sold - I have some friends that still work in it and I've loved watching movies in it's awesome theatre.
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« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2009, 09:10:27 PM »

From Mythic's "attempt to reassure" statement [brackets represent what the exec really means icon_razz]:
Quote
With all that is going on within Mythic Entertainment and EA [i.e., EA dismantling Mythic], I would like to take a moment to reinforce the studio’s dedication to both our games and our players [if any of us are left to be dedicated]. At Mythic, we remain committed to our games and the passionate people who play them [not, however, to our employees] – we’re going to continue to deliver the content and service that keeps you playing [well, if you'd all stop leaving Warhammer Online in droves!]. We want to assure our community that we will maintain the same high level of customer support you’ve come to expect [Yup, we laughed when we wrote that one too!] and continue to improve our games with an exciting schedule of patches [though we're not sure who's actually going to program the patches, and when did you ever hear anyone say "an exciting schedule of patches"? Whatever genius came up with that one is FIRED!], live events and new content.
I'm finally understanding why the games we're so eager for often take years and years to come out. The dev teams become increasingly aware that they are toast once the game is final, so what impetus is there to ever finish developing a game?  icon_smile
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« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2009, 02:26:25 AM »

I for one, am going to be glad to see EA go. Maybe, just maybe people are getting tired of the formulaic bullshit that's come out.

EA's modus operendi:
1. Publish a game for a small dev.
2. rake in the cash
3. swallow the company that just released that game
4. fire anyone who had anything to do with it
5. release sequels and run the franchise into the ground
6. sit on the IP forever
7. wonder why you're going broke
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« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2009, 02:57:32 AM »

Were you not paying attention to what EA's been doing over the last year an a half? They've actually put out quite a few new IPs, as well as try and break away from the formula on some of their old ones.  The EA of today is very different from the EA that bought the exclusive NFL license five years ago.  What you describe sounds a lot more like Activision these days.  The really sad thing is to see EA having to make these cuts because the risks they took didn't pay off.

On the other side, you have Activision putting out formulaic games of questionable quality (GH: Van Halen?) just to try and wring as much money as possible out of a franchise before they completely drive it into the ground, and making boatloads of cash.  Of course, they have WoW and CoD to thank for a lot of their continued success.

If you'd asked me five years ago, I would have told you that I liked Activision a lot more than EA.  It's pretty amazing to me that their positions have completely reversed.  It just makes me sad that in the current economy, I think that in order to survive, EA is going to have to become more like Activision.
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« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2009, 04:52:18 AM »

Quote from: Chaz on November 15, 2009, 02:57:32 AM

Were you not paying attention to what EA's been doing over the last year an a half? They've actually put out quite a few new IPs, as well as try and break away from the formula on some of their old ones.  The EA of today is very different from the EA that bought the exclusive NFL license five years ago.  What you describe sounds a lot more like Activision these days.  The really sad thing is to see EA having to make these cuts because the risks they took didn't pay off.

More accurately, EA didn't get the profits they expected (like they get out of Madden) for all of these new IPs, so they're dropping all said titles that were even remotely new, and going back to what works best for them - sequels year after year after year after year (see Madden).

Yes, this is exactly what Activision has been doing.
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« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2009, 04:28:12 PM »

today could be Pandemics death day.
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« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2009, 06:32:08 PM »

Quote from: CeeKay on November 17, 2009, 04:28:12 PM

today could be Pandemics death day.
I can't say I'm really happy about this part of that article.
Quote
It's believed Pandemic's remaining IP (including The Saboteur) will be passed onto EA's Montreal studio
I hope that's just a case of Kotaku getting it wrong again. I don't see anything great coming for those IPs if they're in the hands of EA Montreal who really haven't produced anything stellar. It also more or less confirms that EA Canada, Burnaby studio will just be a sports games studio. A shame as it's produced some very good games in other genres; i.e. NFS MW, Jame Bond EoN, MoH Heroes 2 (Wii), Skate 1&2. A classic example of where mediocrity wins out.
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« Reply #23 on: November 19, 2009, 10:01:06 PM »

Blue's pointed out an interesting, rather Hamlet-like deciphering of EALA and the tragic decline of the RTS genre (presumably Blizzard's SCII is going to "save" it and bring us back into the era of endless RTS clones).

The Decline and Legacy of EALA
http://www.gamereplays.org/community/The_Decline_and_Legacy_of_EALA-t555152.html
Quote
Perhaps this was the most tragic event of the entire saga, an independent developer with the credentials of Westwood was always going to be better positioned to carry RTS games forward (than a conglomerate at the mercy of shareholders). We cannot be ignorant of EALA's requirement to generate revenues year after year.

Under Vivendi, Blizzard have been entitled the development phases necessary to complete an RTS game [i.e., they can take forever, and do-bj icon_smile], Electronic Arts has never granted EALA the same freedoms. EALA only ever existed to make a "quick buck" each year, and in the end it was their major shortcoming.
His opinion sort of boils down to EA cranking out endless C&C sequels, spinoffs, castoffs (along with the mostly forgotten Lord of the Rings RTSs) just about every year, over budgeted, and underselling, watering down the "Command and Conquer" brand and basically making it meaningless. Rather than giving a dev team some breathing room and time to come up with something special. That's how I read it anywho.
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