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.