The latest company in the game industry to layoff a significant number of employees is EA, who let go of a quarter of its Australian branch, Firemonkeys Studios. This comes just days after Activision Blizzard laid off 800 employees, and Guild Wars 2 studio ArenaNet announced plans to make similarly sized cuts sometime next week.
EA’s PR and financial situation has been on a bit of a roller coaster in the last several months. The publisher's general mishandling of the Star Wars license has created confusion and frustration from fans and analysts alike. EA's stocks took a hit last fall following disappointing performances from key franchises such as Battlefield V. However, those stocks rebounded thanks to the surprise release, and massive success, of Respawn Entertainment’s free-to-play battle royale shooter, Apex Legends, earlier this month. Even still, it seems as though the company wants to make more cost-cutting decisions and Firemonkeys has drawn the short straw.
Kotaku reports that earlier this week, EA laid off around 40-50 employees from the Melbourne studio known primarily for mobile titles such as the Real Racing series and The Sims Freeplay. This number had originally projected to be 80-100 until Game Workers Unite Australia amended the figure. Still, the total size of the studio allegedly stood at 200 employees. That means that about a quarter of the staff are now out of jobs.
It’s currently unclear what will happen to the remainder of Firemonkeys. Their current project in development, Real Racing 4, may have been axed earlier this week (EA has neither confirmed nor denied this). Kotaku’s report shares one anonymous employee’s observation of the office’s current climate. Based on the people lost, apparently most of the remaining staff are now working under the scary assumption that the entire studio will soon fold. Kotaku provided an official statement from EA that addresses the layoffs while insinuating that Firemonkeys will continue operations:
"The FireMonkeys studio is working on some of our most popular mobile games. We recently made a decision to shift teams to focus more on our live services, and have entered into a consultation period that may impact some roles in the studio. We’re working to match skills with opportunities as we go through this period, identifying other opportunities at EA, and providing as much help to our employees as we possibly can."
The layoffs also come as a considerable blow to the Australian game development scene, which already had a rough time establishing a strong presence in a government notoriously averse to video game. A January 2018 survey conducted by the country’s Interactive Games & Entertainment Association revealed that full-time game developers in the country amounted to 928 people. Firemonkeys has long been viewed as a major employer in the region, and Game Worker Unite Australia reports that the layoffs equate to 5% of Australia’s entire game industry. Hopefully things work out in the end, but stories like this are very disheartening to hear.