PopCap are the inimitable developers of some of the casual games that defined the genre, yet they too have seemingly been affected by the staff reductions currently tearing their way through the industry. What’s more, according to a VG247 source, these staff cuts have been happening “very quietly” for “several months”.
The official word from EA, who purchased the studio in August 2011 is, as always, that they do not comment on rumour or speculation. PopCap themselves, however, have responded differently with a full and frank blog post written by the studio’s co-founder John Vechey.
Within the post, Vechey asserts that the decision for this restructuring is solely down to PopCap themselves, perhaps acutely aware that many would blame EA given their track record with taking amazing developers (like Bullfrog) and destroying them:
“The decision to reorganize was 100 percent made by us, with no pressure from EA. EA has a diverse business with games on consoles, PCs and practically every other platform under the sun. We’re glad to have those resources supporting us when a lot of other independent studios are struggling. In addition, some of the people affected by the reorganization may be retrained and reassigned to other jobs in the EA studios. If we didn’t have EA behind us, the cuts would have been worse.”
He also detailed the reasons behind the cuts, with the general flux of any company working in such an innovative industry being exasperated by the recent shift towards free-to-play models:
“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.”
As detailed in the blog post, PopCap have plans beyond Plants vs zombies 2. This, if nothing else, should reassure us all that this restructuring isn’t a prelude to the end of the casual giant, it is merely a necessary change. Still, one can’t help but see it as yet another indictment of an industry in dire need of some restructuring itself.