EA Going Through More Layoffs (Update, Mythic Losing Another)

Akalaupdate: Tim Chappell, Mythic’s main community rep, was laid off.

Here is the message he left at Stratics:

Hello Everyone.

I am very sorry to say that I was informed that my position was no longer needed. Though I had many titles I was handling for Mythic, I grew to love and appreciate all the communities and only wish I could have had more time or resources to get more involved with them. Though I had only been in the position for a little over a year, I will miss a great many of you and hope that you keep in touch.

Mythic MMO’s will always have a strong place in my heart. Over the past 5 years I got to work with everyone of them and couldn’t have been happier with my co-workers, customers or communities. I hope that some of you will stay in contact. I will visit the boards on occasion to remember all the fun I had and all those great personalities that make up Mythic’s community base.

I don’t have any current plans as I am occupied with taking care of family as my father is in the midst of a nightmarish battle with cancer. (If I missed your e-mails over the past couple weeks; this is why and I will get to them soon.) However, I do have a couple mobile projects and art projects in the works that I am very excited to finish. Until then, you may see me in games on occasion. Though I have been busy of late, I usually play SWTOR and L4D, so if you play and see a Dropixel named character in some form, be sure and say hi.
Take care and remember don’t swim against the tide. It will just leave you tired and frustrated.

-Timothy Chappell

Original Post: Or rather, EA is finally announcing that they have been going through layoffs, or an “Organizational Update” as they call it:

In recent weeks, EA has aligned all elements of its organizational structure behind priorities in new technologies and mobile. This has led to some difficult decisions to reduce the workforce in some locations. We are extremely grateful for the contributions made by each of our employees – those that are leaving EA will be missed by their colleagues and friends.

These are hard but essential changes as we focus on delivering great games and showing players around the world why to spend their time with us.

Let’s cut to the chase, has Mythic been affected? Yes.

Ultima Online had its lead designer laid off.

Today was my last day at Mythic. For the past three and a half years or so, I’ve had the great fortune to come to a job with a team of wonderful people, always working to improve on what is still one of the best damn MMOs ever built. We truly are a different breed, always having to deal with flak coming from all directions, but always loving our jobs even though the job is like a bucking bronco and we’re just along for the crazy, crazy ride.

Unfortunately, harsh economic realities and the nature of the video games business mean layoffs happen.

The UO Producer did go on to lay out a roadmap for the rest of the year and into 2014.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has seen their spinoff F2P MOBA Wrath of Heroes close before it ever got out of beta, and now the lead developer has stepped down:

It is with heavy heart I report I am leaving Mythic Entertainment. I have worked with Mythic since 2007, and it quickly became my family.
My heart breaks to walk away from WAR, and from my family at Mythic… But the time to go, and explore new growth and new career possibilities, has come…

No word on Ultima Forever or Dark Age of Camelot, and DAOC is hard to gauge since its community relations and community are in such poor shape – UO and WAR have close-knit and very public communities.

Kotaku says they are hearing up to 10% were laid off, which means up to 900 people (out of 9,000 or so, give or take). Gamasutra reports that it may not be as high as 10%, but it’s still significant. Let’s try to lay things out to get the bigger picture:

EA CEO John Riccitiello stepped down at the end of last month. This after major layoffs at EA studios in Los Angeles and Montreal the previous month.

Mythic was impacted (as mentioned above), with UO losing their lead designer, and WAR losing their lead developer, although it should be noted that he appeared to step down voluntarily.

Game Informer is mentioning that EA has closed their EA Partners program, which saw them publishing games from developers such as Valve, 38 Studios/Big Huge Games, Crytek (Crysis anyone?), EPIC, and others.

Apparently EA has closed PopCap Vancouver and Quicklime Games.

And not even two weeks ago, EA closed down Playfish for the most part, a company/studio they spent $300 million acquiring not even four years ago. This includes the Sims Social and SimCity Social Facebook games and SimCity players are Pissed Off, to say the least.

Kotaku claims to have a memo sent out to employees. Major actions include Origin moving under Frank Gibeau (under EA Labels). There is a new head of Origin.com. They mentioned that they looked at every area of EA, and that the layoffs that have occurred/been communicated are the majority of their “planned personnel actions” as they put it.

In theory, if UO, WAR, DAOC, and Ultima Forever are still alive right now, they should be safe for the time being, just operating in a very reduced state. EA does seem to drop the hammer on major layoffs around this time every year since it’s the start of the fiscal year. Last year around this time, BioWare went through a round of layoffs.

9 Responses

  1. Infinitron says:

    Why does a publisher shut down one of its publishing arms?

    • Deckard says:

      They are dumping their social games, and some of the cheaper mobile stuff. How they couldn’t make a lot of money on Sims and SimCity on Facebook is beyond me.

      Some of their AAA titles didn’t do as well as they liked, or they unexpectedly had to sink some of the revenue back into said titles because of upset players or unexpected problems.

      SimCity (the PC game) really blew up on them, and some key people have already left. Maxis seems to be stumbling around – this latest “2.0” patch fixed some bugs, but introduced a slew of more bugs, including some show-stopping bugs for some folks. If you Google for SimCity 2.0 patch, the first 20 or so articles are about the problems, and they are all well known websites. Someday, somebody will teach a course in project management on SimCity and how everything kept going wrong and even getting worse in some ways.

      I really don’t understand EA at times. I hope Ultima Forever skates through all of this safely.

    • Deckard says:

      Same for EA Partners and some of the social-related studios EA is closing down or shrinking – EA is investing X amount of money, and they are not getting Y amount of money in return.

      I do wonder why EA can’t make enough money off of EA Partners or some of it’s social gaming to justify the cost. I can’t fathom how they can’t make a lot of money off of Sims + Facebook, or partnering up with other companies like Valve or Crytek or whoever.

      I do have to say I have seen complaints from some people that some of the partners weren’t happy or didn’t feel they weren’t being promoted enough by EA. It could be that it wasn’t about money and was more about demands or conditions not being met and just creating a headache for EA.

  2. WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

    Who knows? Partners may have dried up in terms of opportunities.

    It’s worth noting that they specify mobile as a priority, which probably means Ultima Forever is…safer.

  3. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    The market is swarming with indie insects whose deceptively painless stings are slowly bringing the grand old titan to its knees. That and probably a bunch of other blunders as have been mentioned. Something else to consider is that in my readings of EA-related ./ article comments, there is (justified or not) a buttload of consumer hatred toward them. Unless they’re all Ultima fans, seems like there are other historical reasons for disdain.

    • Deckard says:

      >> Something else to consider is that in my readings of EA-related ./ article comments, there is (justified or not) a buttload of consumer hatred toward them. Unless they’re all Ultima fans, seems like there are other historical reasons for disdain.

      Everything that EA has done that angered Ultima fans in the past, they have done with quite a few studios they’ve acquired outside of Origin.

      The current SimCity “crisis” as some call it is a pretty good example, and I would consider a prime example of where EA has gone wrong. When they announced it in March of 2012, they claimed they were listening to player feedback and looking at what people wanted after SimCity 4. A lot of people were happy, but they were raising red flags about online connectivity being involved, and some of the phrases being thrown around (that revolved around simplifying it). Between then and the launch, EA/Maxis claimed they were listening to player feedback, but nothing changed since the announcement.

      What many SimCity fans wanted was an improved SimCity 4 – more details and simulation, improved art, bigger cities, better modding, better performance (multi-core support). They still loved SimCity 4, and they liked going off and building their cities by themselves.

      They got some of that, but ultimately they got a more simplified game (SimTown as some call it), smaller cities (instead of larger), and a multi-player component that can work against them regardless of what they do.. The loss of ownership of their own cities (being that cities are saved on EA servers) really pissed a lot of people off. This was reinforced when SimCity Social’s closure was announced, and SimCity Social players were told their cities woud be lost.

      Maxis produced a game that EA wanted to make (with an emphasis on DLC to boot) and that controls how (and when) people play the game, which is not what fans wanted. SC fans wanted more freedom, not less. Then they have a horrible launch. Then they make claims like always-online is required for the simulations, which is quickly shot down by respected websites. Then, once people got beyond the always-on/DRM, they discovered ridiculous bugs that showed the game was rushed or never had proper Q&A. EA starts pushing patches, then announces the 2.0 patch which was going to be huge, and the 2.0 patch actually makes things worse and/or ruins cities for many players.

      I didn’t mean to bring a non-Ultima game into all of this, but it’s just a good example of what’s going wrong at EA and how out-of-touch they are with a lot of people who play their games. They are producing what marketing and MBA types think they should produce, not what gamers want.

      I feel like we’ve gotten lucky with a lot of the Mythic stuff – if EA were to make Ultima Online now, it would be another generic theme park MMO like World of Warcraft, and I’m shocked they haven’t killed off the Mythic MMOs in favor of other games.

    • cor2879 says:

      Here is a list of franchises that I once loved that plummeted downhill (or were just killed off) once EA got their hands on them. In No particular order:

      Wing Commander,
      Mass Effect,
      Knights of the Old Republic,
      Dragon Age,
      Sim City

      So yeah. That’s also a list of pretty much my favorite gaming franchises of all time. And every one of them has been ruined since EA tried to micromanage them. Now some EA apologists may try to argue that they are not responsible for the downfall of these franchises, however I would argue that it just can’t be coincidence – every one of these franchises was at the very top of the gaming world, was bought by EA and eventually micromanaged by EA and suffered for it. I would love nothing more, frankly, than for EA to implode and cease to exist. I have no doubt there would be someone left behind to pick up the pieces that I care about, and probably do a much better job of handling them.

  4. Deckard says:

    The real question is: Why aren’t we all getting together and creating a company and then selling it to EA for a lot of money.