Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Electronic Arts announces layoffs and cancels Star Wars game

Another day, another round of mass layoffs in the games industry. Electronic Arts (EA) has announced it will cut around five percent of its employees, putting almost 700 people out of a job. It’s also cancelling games and shutting down at least one development studio.

EA CEO Andrew Wilson announced the layoffs in an email to employees, which was subsequently posted to the company’s blog on Wednesday. 

“[W]e are streamlining our company operations to deliver deeper, more connected experiences for fans everywhere that build community, shape culture, and grow fandom,” said Wilson. “In this time of change, we expect these decisions to impact approximately 5 percent of our workforce.”

According to EA’s 2023 annual report, the company employed approximately 13,400 people as of the end of March last year. Five percent of that is 670 people.

“[W]e will support and work with each colleague with the utmost attention, care, and respect,” wrote Wilson — a wordy euphemism for laying them off. 

Skirting explicit phrases such as “layoff,” “cut,” and “reduction in headcount,” Wilson stated that EA would try to shift staff to new projects or roles before it lets them go. Conversations with impacted employees have already begun, and are expected to conclude around April. Even so, it’s likely that many people will find themselves without a job.

This is the second mass layoff EA has announced in less than a year. In a similar blog post last March, Wilson revealed that the company would cut six percent of its workforce at the time, amounting to almost 800 people.

Mashable has reached out to EA for comment.

EA moving away from licensed IPs

Staff cuts aren’t the only reductions at EA. In addition to “continuing to optimize our global real estate footprint” AKA shrinking its office space, the company is cancelling or discontinuing some of its development studio’s titles. Notably, this includes shifting focus away from games based on licensed intellectual properties (IP), as EA apparently sees little future in them.

“We are also sunsetting games and moving away from development of future licensed IP that we do not believe will be successful in our changing industry,” said Wilson.

According to the CEO, this change will allow EA to focus on its “biggest opportunities — including [they company’s] owned IP, sports, and massive online communities.”

This doesn’t mean the company is cancelling all EA Studios games which are based on external licensed IP. Cliffhanger Games‘ Black Panther title and Motive Studio‘s Iron Man game reportedly remain in development for now, though the developers might not feel too reassured by Wilson’s statements.

However, EA has cancelled the Star Wars first-person shooter that Respawn Entertainment had been developing. Respawn is the studio behind Apex Legends and the Star Wars Jedi series, franchises it is now being directed back toward.

“As we’ve looked at Respawn’s portfolio over the last few months, what’s clear is the games our players are most excited about are Jedi and Respawn’s rich library of owned brands,” said EA Entertainment and Technology president Laura Miele. “Knowing this, we have decided to pivot away from early development on a Star Wars FPS Action game to focus our efforts on new projects based on our owned brands while providing support for existing games.”

EA’s decision to eschew licensed IP also extends to its mobile games, with the company having previously announced that it is discontinuing Kim Kardashian Hollywood, Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth, MLB Tap Sports Baseball, and F1 Mobile

“These games have entertained many people over the years, and it’s the right time to focus our time on the remaining games in our portfolio which we believe can grow,” said Miele. “We have some great titles, and I’m optimistic about where we can take our significant library of owned IP.”

Sadly, even working on company-owned IP doesn’t guarantee safety from the layoffs, with not all of EA’s studios having survived the cull. U.S. developer Ridgeline Studio will be shut down completely, with studio head and Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto having already made the personal decision to leave. Initially unveiled in September 2022, Ridgeline had been focused on creating a new story set in the Battlefield universe. Now that responsibility has been shifted to Criterion Games, while Ridgeline will close without ever having shipped a game.

The news of EA’s layoffs comes just one day after PlayStation announced it would cut around 900 of its own employees, including staff at well-known development studios such as Naughty Dog, Insomniac Games, and Guerrilla Games. A running tally by Kotaku calculates that over 8,000 people in the games industry have been laid off in the past two months alone. That’s just 1,000 off estimates on the number of games industry workers cut throughout all of 2023 — a year which was already defined by mass layoffs in games.