EA Exec Explains PopCap Layoffs

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EA Exec Explains PopCap Layoffs

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EA Games President Frank Gibeau says layoffs at PopCap were necessary to avoid "duplication" of what EA is already doing.

Wildly successful casual game studio PopCap laid off about 50 employees earlier this month, including George Fan, the man who created the mega-hit Plants vs. Zombies. (In an especially nice bit of timing, PopCap confirmed a day before the layoffs were announced that a sequel to Plants vs. Zombies is in the works.) The news of the layoffs led all eyes to immediately turn to Electronic Arts, which acquired PopCap the previous year for $750 million and has a not-undeserved reputation for devouring studios whole, but PopCap co-founder John Vechey insisted that the decision to make the cuts was "100 percent made by us, with no pressure from EA."

But Gibeau seemed to cast some doubt on that statement in an interview with Bloomberg, in which he implied that the decision was pretty much entirely EA's. "Typically at EA what we do when we acquire a company is we make sure that we go slow initially and really understand the culture of the company that's now joining Electronic Arts, and then what we do is we look for where there's opportunities to integrate the companies - and then we accelerate," he said.

"So with PopCap, what we found is that there are some areas inside PopCap that were duplicative of what EA was doing; a lot of central resources, legal, business affairs, those types of things, so we accelerated the integration there," he continued. "We also looked at pivoting a little bit harder towards mobile and away from social, so we made some adjustments."

It's actually a fairly reasonable justification for laying people off, although I'll never understand why they let the Plants vs. Zombies guy go; what makes it sticky is Gibeau's apparent contradiction of Vechey's assertion that this wasn't an EA hatchet job. Not that who actually pulled the trigger really matters to those unfortunate employees who find themselves without a job, but why deny it and then let the cat out of the bag so matter-of-factly just a few days later? Layoffs are unpleasant, but taking the heat for the new corporate overlords is just flat-out ugly.

Source: Bloomberg

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That kid from Malcolm in the middle is laying people off at popcap? What the hell?

(yeah yeah I know he... might not have or whatever, but damn does he look like Frankie Muniz or whatever)

"Pay no attention to the red dot on my forehead. I assure you my family is perfectly safe"

the thing is, if you can can come if with Plants v Zombies people will work for you and even crowd fund you because of the creativity you have. To Kickstarter!

Andy Chalk:
"Typically at EA what we do when we acquire a company is..."

Wait a minute, are they really gonna let us in on the "tearing a studio to shreds" process that they're so infamous for? I'm listening...

Andy Chalk:
"... we make sure that we go slow initially and really understand the culture of the company that's now joining Electronic Arts, and then what we do is we look for where there's opportunities to integrate the companies - and then we accelerate," he said.

"So with PopCap, what we found is that there are some areas inside PopCap that were duplicative of what EA was doing; a lot of central resources, legal, business affairs, those types of things, so we accelerated the integration there," he continued. "We also looked at pivoting a little bit harder towards mobile and away from social, so we made some adjustments."

So that's how they (and possibly Activision) do it? Kind of anti-climatic admittedly, but good to know nonetheless. The whole "going slow initially" does explain why at the start of this process everything seems to be going smoothly for the company involved. It has to be somewhere along the integration process they mentioned that everything hits the fan and the company involved get ground up like a baby in a meat-grinder. Integrating with EA must be something like being integrated with a spiked wall or something.

the €Ampire strikes again. not for long and bioware will be next. what other company will be next they will close down in the future or fire people?
€A is on a lookout.

I don't care who did it, I still find it disgusting fifty people were laid off.

I don't know why Escapist bothers reporting on EA news anymore. The second the average forum goer sees the words Electronic and Arts they devolve into hate spewing regurgitators of the same few lines over and over, with no care at all for the actual contents and context of the report, but for the aforementioned words.

It would seems Frank has mistaken the word accelerate for devour, it seems that EA's integration means to dissolve the newly acquired company until only the precious IP's remain, then take those IPs and turn them into generic FPS titles.

Its quiet clear that EA have no interest in the people behind the IP's, just the IP's of the companies EA acquire.

Boudica:
I don't know why Escapist bothers reporting on EA news anymore. The second the average forum goer sees the words Electronic and Arts they devolve into hate spewing regurgitators of the same few lines over and over, with no care at all for the actual contents and context of the report, but for the aforementioned words.

To be fair, they did just freaking lay off that guy who did the first PvZ so it's like, what logical reason would there be for that unless they somehow uploaded a copy of his brain into an android that was superior in every way to the original...

All they have to do is keep smiling while they slowly peel away the skin, then the muscles, and the bones and the organs, and by the time a valid complaint can be lodged, it's already hanging in the butcher's window. It's not as if they haven't already done it before. You act as if these concerns and yelling are completely unfounded.

Let this be a warning to everyone in the games industry.

If you are bought by EA the company will be gutted like a fish and your IPs turned into unrecognisable zombies. It doesn't mater who your are, from cleaners to creative directors, EVERYONE is fair game.

V da Mighty Taco:
So that's how they (and possibly Activision) do it? Kind of anti-climatic admittedly, but good to know nonetheless. The whole "going slow initially" does explain why at the start of this process everything seems to be going smoothly for the company involved. It has to be somewhere along the integration process they mentioned that everything hits the fan and the company involved get ground up like a baby in a meat-grinder. Integrating with EA must be something like being integrated with a spiked wall or something.

Integration with EA is more like being put in the bottom of a pit that is slowly being filled with very loose sand. You would think you would be okay at first, but once the sand is high enough and you try to step on it, you find out climbing out isn't part of your fate. Eventually you release mediocre rehashes of your older titles, before eventually succumbing to asphyxiation.

Typically, when a company is acquired by another company, this is sort of standard procedure. Trim fat and rid the acquisition of newly redundant staff.

I'm neither surprised nor disappointed.

weirdguy:

Boudica:
I don't know why Escapist bothers reporting on EA news anymore. The second the average forum goer sees the words Electronic and Arts they devolve into hate spewing regurgitators of the same few lines over and over, with no care at all for the actual contents and context of the report, but for the aforementioned words.

To be fair, they did just freaking lay off that guy who did the first PvZ so it's like, what logical reason would there be for that unless they somehow uploaded a copy of his brain into an android that was superior in every way to the original...

All they have to do is keep smiling while they slowly peel away the skin, then the muscles, and the bones and the organs, and by the time a valid complaint can be lodged, it's already hanging in the butcher's window. It's not as if they haven't already done it before. You act as if these concerns and yelling are completely unfounded.

Possibly, but folks like you need to recognize the difference between EA's crap and standard practice for corporations. When you acquire a new asset, you don't need things like a second legal team, so you get rid of it, MAYBE keep some and integrate them into your legal team if they're talented and so on.

Devoneaux:

weirdguy:

Boudica:
I don't know why Escapist bothers reporting on EA news anymore. The second the average forum goer sees the words Electronic and Arts they devolve into hate spewing regurgitators of the same few lines over and over, with no care at all for the actual contents and context of the report, but for the aforementioned words.

To be fair, they did just freaking lay off that guy who did the first PvZ so it's like, what logical reason would there be for that unless they somehow uploaded a copy of his brain into an android that was superior in every way to the original...

All they have to do is keep smiling while they slowly peel away the skin, then the muscles, and the bones and the organs, and by the time a valid complaint can be lodged, it's already hanging in the butcher's window. It's not as if they haven't already done it before. You act as if these concerns and yelling are completely unfounded.

Possibly, but folks like you need to recognize the difference between EA's crap and standard practice for corporations. When you acquire a new asset, you don't need things like a second legal team, so you get rid of it, MAYBE keep some and integrate them into your legal team if they're talented and so on.

Correct, but that doesn't explain George Fan's departure (the mastermind behind Plants Vs Zombies) or this about turn on who's the one wielding the axe in this case.

Ed130:
Snip

I don't presume to know EA's reasons for canning Mr. Fan.

For all we know he could have been a problem to them.

What I can explain is why EA tends to contradict itself a times.

You see, Corporations are large sprawling entities. And in something like that (Especially with an overly bloated upper management i've heard EA has) communication is often pretty lax, so you'll often hear an important head say one thing when on the other end of the chain someone is saying the exact opposite.

Devoneaux:

Ed130:
Snip

I don't presume to know EA's reasons for canning Mr. Fan.

For all we know he could have been a problem to them.

What I can explain is why EA tends to contradict itself a times.

You see, Corporations are large sprawling entities. And in something like that (Especially with an overly bloated upper management i've heard EA has) communication is often pretty lax, so you'll often hear an important head say one thing when on the other end of the chain someone is saying the exact opposite.

Looks like I forgot Hanlon's Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

But EA seriously needs to get a grip because that particular excuse is getting old.

Ed130:

Devoneaux:

Ed130:
Snip

I don't presume to know EA's reasons for canning Mr. Fan.

For all we know he could have been a problem to them.

What I can explain is why EA tends to contradict itself a times.

You see, Corporations are large sprawling entities. And in something like that (Especially with an overly bloated upper management i've heard EA has) communication is often pretty lax, so you'll often hear an important head say one thing when on the other end of the chain someone is saying the exact opposite.

Looks like I forgot Hanlon's Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

But EA seriously needs to get a grip because that particular excuse is getting old.

*shrug* I don't know why on earth people insist on calling EA "evil" Self interest is the rule of the world. Looking out for your own interests isn't really all that evil. Though I suppose that's a matter of perspective.

?

Why fire the man behind pop caps success?

Legal teams and what not, okay. but the genius behind its most high profile game?? And firing him 2 days after the sequel is announced?

Where is the rationale, rhyme or reason in this lunacy?

Worgen:
That kid from Malcolm in the middle is laying people off at popcap? What the hell?

(yeah yeah I know he... might not have or whatever, but damn does he look like Frankie Muniz or whatever)

I think he looks more like an ageing Harry Potter (it's the eyes!)

Oh EA. You told us you'd learned from your mistakes when you looked at all the previous companies you'd killed, but it's clear that your studio heads don't have a clue what is going on in their companies. They don't even know why they are reshuffling and firing their workforce. What does that tell you about the state of your company?!?

For goodness sake EA! You have become a company of accountants and shareholders making videogames, with no actual knowledge of the craft.
You wouldn't let hospital shareholders take surgeries, or let politicians run airports, and yet these clueless people are given huge amounts of power in EA. It's not a good environment for making successful videogames, and that shows in how bloated and ineffectual EA has become. It has loads of successful franchises (that it bought off other companies) that sell in the numbers other companies could only dream about, (for about 2 or 3 sequels before EA ruins the series) but still makes huge losses every year. Then it loads all its debts onto one of the smaller branches in its company, scuttles the ship and blames them for their demise: granting the fetid, rotting behemoth of EA a few more years in torment before it's debts catch up on it again, it has to do something drastic to avoid the whole beast collapsing under its own weight, and it loads up and severs another limb.

No, EA isn't maliciously evil, but it's so... awful at everything it does that really the only redeeming factor is the one or two unpolished diamonds a newly integrated company manage to dig up with the extra EAfunds, before the management team decide to 'improve' the company by giving it a full frontal lobotomy and sending everyone to work on a genre and project they have absolutely no experience in.

Devoneaux:
Typically, when a company is acquired by another company, this is sort of standard procedure. Trim fat and rid the acquisition of newly redundant staff.

I'm neither surprised nor disappointed.

Yeah, I'd agree with you. What they're describing in the article does make quite a bit of sense. There wouldn't be a point in having redundant back-office type operations after an acquisition. The communications snafu is odd, but might just have been a face-saving bit on Popcap's part. Not sure what the situation is behind letting Mr. Fan go, but there's likely something behind the scenes we don't know.

Ed130:
If you are bought by EA the company will be gutted like a fish and your IPs turned into unrecognisable zombies.

But Pop Cap's most recognizable IP was ALREADY a zombie!

OT: It's interesting that EA is pretty much giving up the pretense of niceness at this point and admitting that they exist only to kill developers. I mean, this quote is basically the PR equivalent of putting your pinkie to your mouth, stroking a cat, and demanding one million dollars in gold bars.

Devoneaux:

Ed130:
Snip

I don't presume to know EA's reasons for canning Mr. Fan.

For all we know he could have been a problem to them.

What I can explain is why EA tends to contradict itself a times.

You see, Corporations are large sprawling entities. And in something like that (Especially with an overly bloated upper management i've heard EA has) communication is often pretty lax, so you'll often hear an important head say one thing when on the other end of the chain someone is saying the exact opposite.

You mean like "We are reducing our focus on social gaming in favor of things like mobile" while slashing and burning one of the most successful casual/mobile developers ever. One that never touched social gaming?

The impression one is left with is EA HR and legal really has no clue what it is that their acquired studios do or make. And therein lies much of the perceived problems with EA. Pretty much everything we have witnessed over the years screams of a truly out of control overbearing corporate bureaucracy that simply crushes newly acquired companies like this.

The higher ups at EA have a plan and buy out a small studio because they see something they like or need. It is then abandoned to the middle of EA's bureaucratic hell, where the lawyers and HR drones have no idea what the company does, no desire or reason to learn about and instead seek to make it fit in their world. And the developer gets their soul crushed while they get ripped to shreds by paperwork and bullplop.

Andy Chalk:
"So with PopCap, what we found is that there are some areas inside PopCap that were duplicative of what EA was doing; a lot of central resources, legal, business affairs, those types of things, so we accelerated the integration there," he continued. "We also looked at pivoting a little bit harder towards mobile and away from social, so we made some adjustments."

1. George Fan isn't legal, business affairs, or anything like that. He is creative staff. Your first argument does not apply.
2. Don't pivot away from social. You bought PopCap because they were good at social games. Why would you buy a company only to divert them to something they're not as experienced or skilled at?
3. Plants Vs Zombies is on mobile. I assume PvZ 2 will be as well. Is George Fan somehow not qualified to do what he's done well at in the past?

Here's what I think it boils down to. EA didn't buy PopCap because they were a good developer. They bought PopCap because they owned some good IPs. My best guess is that EA's own creative force is cheaper than PopCap's, and their primary aim is to emphasize pushing out samey sequels rather than making innovative new IPs like PopCap would've done in the past. In other words, the same thing EA and Activision always do.

P.S. Thanks

P.P.S. Does George Fan know Flash? If EA's just trying to purge all their Flash programmers and move to a less terrible platform, I'm down with that.

Sane company: let's buy this company doing 'X' and get them to do 'X' for us.

EA: let's start an 'X' division ourselves and buy this company to keep them from competing with us in 'X'. Maybe we can get some of them doing 'Y'.

"...and then what we do is we look for where there's opportunities to integrate the companies - and then we accelerate," he said.

Right... "Accelerate" like a Dalek...

I'd just like some explanation of why the guy responsible for PopCap's biggest hit since Bejeweled was let go just before the company commenced work on its sequel. The timing of his departure with the rest of the layoffs seems peculiar, to say the least, and no less peculiar for EA's explanation. "Oh, you know, we just got rid of some redundant accounting and infrastructure people and (*cough* whisper) thearchitectofPopcap'sbreakoutcross-platformhit. Nothing to see, here..."

'Course, it's possible that we're getting a "shades of truth" thing here, where EA said, "You need to lose 'x' amount of payroll dollars from your budget" and PopCap got to choose where to drop the axe; the decision to make the cuts was PopCap's, even if the pressure came from on high.

Devoneaux:

weirdguy:
-snip

Possibly, but folks like you need to recognize the difference between EA's crap and standard practice for corporations. When you acquire a new asset, you don't need things like a second legal team, so you get rid of it, MAYBE keep some and integrate them into your legal team if they're talented and so on.

I would agree with you, except for the fact that the people EA keeps firing when they acquire a new asset aren't redundant legal teams that would do the exact same thing as the legal team EA already has, they are creative teams that collaborated really well and created great games like Plants Versus Zombies and Peggle; games that no-one else had the exact combination of skills and creativity to create. In an industry where products are influenced greatly by the creativity and drive of the people behind them, the things EA does to great companies is terrible.

OK. Where are you! That guy who called out all the people who said "this smells of EA" and claimed we were biased and inaccurate

>_>

<_<

uncanny474:

Ed130:
If you are bought by EA the company will be gutted like a fish and your IPs turned into unrecognisable zombies.

But Pop Cap's most recognizable IP was ALREADY a zombie!

OT: It's interesting that EA is pretty much giving up the pretense of niceness at this point and admitting that they exist only to kill developers. I mean, this quote is basically the PR equivalent of putting your pinkie to your mouth, stroking a cat, and demanding one million dollars in gold bars.

I'm glad someone caught that joke. Considering the rumours of a Plants vs Zombies FPS that appeared shortly before the squeal announcement, we now may have the first case of a Zombified Zombie.

Ah, I see the amorphous blob that is EA has just squatted out another loaf after slowly digesting its helpless victims.

I'm just waiting to see the violent chemical reaction that will, eventually, be the dissolution and implosion of EA.

Ed130:
Plants vs Zombies FPS

INB4 class-based TF2 ripoff. Hoovey is walnut, anyone? Medic is sunflower?

Devoneaux:
Possibly, but folks like you need to recognize the difference between EA's crap and standard practice for corporations. When you acquire a new asset, you don't need things like a second legal team, so you get rid of it, MAYBE keep some and integrate them into your legal team if they're talented and so on.

Yeah, but do you think the loss of those staff members is what people are complaining about? I think they are more focused on the staff that were integral to PvZ. After all, that was the loudest part of the headlines.

Murdering creativity since the dawn of time. EA because world is a cruel place where you will be buried without your dreams.

weirdguy:

Devoneaux:
Possibly, but folks like you need to recognize the difference between EA's crap and standard practice for corporations. When you acquire a new asset, you don't need things like a second legal team, so you get rid of it, MAYBE keep some and integrate them into your legal team if they're talented and so on.

Yeah, but do you think the loss of those staff members is what people are complaining about? I think they are more focused on the staff that were integral to PvZ. After all, that was the loudest part of the headlines.

There could be any number of reasons for that having occurred. I won't pretend like I know what's what over at EA HQ.

It's possible that EA are stupid and have no idea what they're doing. It is equally possible that Mr. Fan did something to compromise his own position. We just don't really know either way.

Devoneaux:
There could be any number of reasons for that having occurred. I won't pretend like I know what's what over at EA HQ.

It's possible that EA are stupid and have no idea what they're doing. It is equally possible that Mr. Fan did something to compromise his own position. We just don't really know either way.

Benefit of the doubt or not, I'm still allowed to voice my concern that they are removing key developers of PvZ without any explanation beyond redundancy, which makes no sense without the context and is not satisfactory, unless we were to assume that doing so would somehow compromise their business standing while not telling the entire truth had an entirely justifiable reason, such as finding out that the released employees were in fact, extraterrestrials planning to use mind control through popular games.

Right now, what they have is a ticking bomb if PvZ2 does not retain the same level of satisfaction as the first game.

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