Layoffs at PopCap

And a heartfelt letter from John Vechey:

Best wishes to those affected, and hope they’ll land on their feet soon.

Sad news. Best wishes to all affected.

This has been rumored to be coming for a week or so. Sad to see it’s true.

100 to go at the Dublin office if it closes.

A lot of talented folk will be lost there.

THQ and Funcom got hit today, as well. Black Tuesday.

Ah hell, the rumors were true? I hate to see hard times come down on folks who make stuff I love. I know it doesn’t amount to much, but I wish you all well and hope do the best.

Best wishes to those affected for sure. Glad to hear Jeff Greene was spared.

A little context on why we’re making cuts in some areas while we’re investing and expanding in others: In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play and pay for games. Free-to-play, social and mobile games have exploded in popularity. That happened fast. Surprisingly so. The change in consumer tastes requires us to reorganize our business and invest in new types of games on new platforms. It’s a completely different world from when we started.

There’s also an economic component to the reorganization. To stay in business, we need to manage costs, improve efficiency and maintain a profit. We’ve been able to invest in creative new games like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies because we had a high profit business. That business is challenged, and if we don’t adapt, we won’t be able to invest in new IP. That sounds harsh – but if we don’t stay in business, no more plants, zombies, jewels, frogs or worms.

But… I read that and I hear “guess what bitches? We are gonna put a RMAH and micro transaction engine in every goddamn game we can until you are sick of it”

Man, if anyone, I thought PopCap was immune.

Immune to what? EA? Guess again!

I imagine that even PopCap is being disrupted.

They also built up very fast. Meanwhile, when was their last big new game? Plants vs Zombies is three years old!

I assumed PvZ and Bejeweled were infinite money generating cash cows.

Don’t worry. The new versions will be.

In-game stores, microtransactions, cosmetic outfits, RMAH, etc.

I think the problem is they thought so too. You can only do so much by just pumping out new versions of the same game over and over again on different platforms and call it a triumph.

— Alan

For years now, we’ve been looking for a PvZ 2. A real sequel to an outstanding game. They couldn’t deliver on that…without firing a bunch of people?

They just announced PVZ 2… will the layoffs impact that?

That blog post claims the layoffs were 100% internal Popcap decisions and that being part of EA is helping prevent them from needing to lay off more people.

While I survived today, many of my friends (and many talented people) lost their jobs today.

I can tell you John (who wrote that blog post) is someone I know pretty well, and he is absolutely a genuine guy. It’s hard to really understand that without knowing him, but the fact that he wrote this blog post makes it even more heartfelt and genuine to those in the know than if one of our PR folk had written it. If you care about the truth, then you can take his post at face value.

My thinking is that there were teams within the company that were working on Popcap’s older mainstays that are currently, or determined to be, no longer profitable (or as potentially profitable) as other product lines in the company, and that maybe perhaps the social games groups–where a lot of hiring from what I understand has been taking place–needs a little rejiggering to get moving again since to me it seems a little stagnant (Pig Up never made it off the ground and Solitaire Blitz didn’t seem to get much publicity).

I think this means that Popcap is moving away from their more traditional titles a bit and is concentrating on the more proven winners. My initial thinking is that stuff like the hidden object single-player offline dealies are getting axed, but then again maybe those are really the bread basket of the company. I can’t imagine new platforms on PvZ and even BJ3 are doing all that great. Maybe the company can’t afford to produce new products at the languid pace it has done so in the past.

But yeah still, it sucks because they’ve been a great and solid rock for so long and I love what they do. Full disclosure: I speak from the point of view of a competitor.

— Alan

Slantz, it’s good to hear that there are people like John around. My faith in PopCap as one of the places that has their stuff together was kinda shaken by the news of such serious layoffs. But these things do sometimes need to happen. All you can hope is that you have people like John who will be honest and forthright when it does.

My best to those laid off and the survivors as well.

I’m worried that it’s a bit hasty of a strategy change for them instead of them doing what they do best. It seems like they could be more successful working on the next unique title like Bejeweled, Peggle, or PvZ instead of spending so much time on Facebook games.

Solitaire Blitz and Zuma Blitz each only have around 1.7-1.8 million monthly average users, which is very low for a Facebook game where only a tiny fraction of their audience will inevitably spend anything. I doubt they’ve brought in even a fraction of the revenue that Bejeweled 3 or PvZ did.

Even if it pays off in the long term, it’s sad for me to see them so heavily pivot towards what seem to inevitably be proving to be fads in a burst bubble.