PopCap lays off 50 North American employees, may close Irish office

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Electronic Arts-owned PopCap Games confirmed it has laid off 50 North American employees and is currently assessing the future of its Dublin, Ireland unit.

PopCap co-founder John Vechey said most of the layoffs impacted staffers in the firm's Seattle headquarters. He added that the firm is still hiring and is on track to end 2012 with roughly the same number of employees as it had at the beginning of the year. "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," Vechey explained. "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."

Vechey added that PopCap must also more effectively manage costs, improve efficiency and increase profits. "We've been able to invest in creative new games like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies because we had a high profit business," he said. "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." Vechey said PopCap is still analyzing its Dublin office to determine whether it can boost profitability without shuttering the unit. 

Vechey also shot down rumors that Electronic Arts, which acquired PopCap in mid-2011 for around $650 million in cash and $100 million in stock, is no longer allowing PopCap to run its business independently. "The founders, CEO and executives who were in charge of PopCap still are," Vechey said. "The decision to reorganize was 100 percent made by us, with no pressure from EA… If we didn't have EA behind us, the cuts would have been worse." He added that some employees affected by the reorganization may be retrained and assigned to other EA units.

PopCap plans to release the sequel to Plants vs. Zombies in early 2013. Its catalog also includes popular mobile titles like Bejeweled and Chuzzle.

For more:
- read this PopCap blog entry

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