UPDATE: An EA spokesperson has since shared a statement with Kotaku that states that EA is working with employees to try and find other roles for them inside the company, and will be providing severance and other resources to those who leave.
ORIGINAL STORY: Electronic Arts announced the latest brutal corporate decision to affect the games industry, as the company laid off 350 people from its marketing, publishing, and analytics departments. The move was announced earlier this morning to employees via email.
EA made headlines for layoffs already this year when it announced it would lay off a full quarter of the employees who worked at Australian acquisition Firemonkeys Studios, a move that equated to laying off a full 5% of the entire Australian game industry. The move came shortly after Activision-Blizzard laid off 800 employees in the same earnings call that the company reported record-breaking earnings. Both moves were met with heavy criticism from the industry at large, but reflect a troubling trend in 2019 that has seen successful companies angling to cost-cut after giving leadership staff significant signing or incentive bonuses.
EA would relay a message to Kotaku following the internal move. In the original e-mail obtained by Kotaku, EA boss Andrew Wilson stated that the goal would be to consolidate the affected departments and change international strategies, which would include closing offices in Russia and Japan. Here's the statement made by EA to Kotaku:
"Today we took some important steps as a company to address our challenges and prepare for the opportunities ahead. As we look across a changing world around us, it’s clear that we must change with it. We’re making deliberate moves to better deliver on our commitments, refine our organization and meet the needs of our players. As part of this, we have made changes to our marketing and publishing organization, our operations teams, and we are ramping down our current presence in Japan and Russia as we focus on different ways to serve our players in those markets. In addition to organizational changes, we are deeply focused on increasing quality in our games and services. Great games will continue to be at the core of everything we do, and we are thinking differently about how to amaze and inspire our players.
This is a difficult day. The changes we’re making today will impact about 350 roles in our 9,000-person company. These are important but very hard decisions, and we do not take them lightly. We are friends and colleagues at EA, we appreciate and value everyone’s contributions, and we are doing everything we can to ensure we are looking after our people to help them through this period to find their next opportunity. This is our top priority.”
Wilson's email included a statement on how he feels about the current states of Electronic Arts:
"We have a vision to be the World's Greatest Game's Company. If we're honest with ourselves, we're not there right now. We have work to do with our games, our player relationships, and our business."
It's another in a series of terrible events for the video game industry, which has been affected by several mass layoffs and controversies surrounding them since late last year. Studio closures and publisher cutbacks have been commonplace despite the fact that the industry as a whole is one of the hottest tech sectors in the world, with giants like Google and Walmart both angling to get involved in the near future. It's also a particularly callous move from EA, as the Game Developers Conference has just passed, as noted by Jason Schreier:
Seems particularly cruel to lay off 350 people the week after GDC, which would have been a good time to hand out resumes.— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) March 26, 2019
It's possible that the move is one that hasn't been planned for long, but given the size of the layoffs, that seems unlikely. It's yet another reminder that the gaming industry is advancing rapidly in technological breakthroughs with the caveat that job security has not followed. With increased support behind the idea of unionizing jobs in gaming, it's possible this latest move, done with the kind of cold, calculated approach that appears to devalue the people affected, could be the moment needed to turn that support into a movement.