In a move that probably comes as no shock to those in the know, EA will shortly begin a massive layoff of anywhere between 500 to 1,000 employees. That’s about 5%-11% of their total employees. To be perfectly honest, it’s not the least bit surprising given the poor performance of titles like Battlefield 3 and the recently launched Star Wars The Old Republic (An MMORPG that seems to be on a one-way track towards Free 2 Play status). While It’s never nice to hear that hundreds of people will soon be without work during an economic downturn, one has to wonder if all this could have been avoided by not chasing titles like BF3 out of the release gate with a ludicrous $30 million advertising budget, or releasing a run of the mill MMORPG with a rumored budget in upwards of $130 million. Actually, their business practices need a lot of work in general.
Here we have a company that created the fabulous “Project 10 Dollar”, an experiment that has become a festering annoyance to countless consumers who can’t even bring a game to a friend’s house these days, let alone expect to buy a finished product anymore without a significant DLC investment on release day. Electronic Arts has so mistreated its customers that, in a world full of corporations that routinely destroy the lives of common citizens, EA somehow pulled off the feat of being the worst company of 2012. Not to mention that EA’s CEO, John Riccitiello, is a man who casually muses about how easily they could charge people mid-game in BF3 to reload and that gamers would be too absorbed to even care.
Normally this story would probably just be a simple blurb with little in the way of commentary or perspective. In this case however I feel it’s important to speak out and make it clear that even a massive corporation like EA has to reap what it sows, and that no amount of marketing or PR campaigns are going to keep gamers everywhere from seeing your bad practices for what they are. The rehashed sequels, abominable reboots, online passes, day-one on-disk DLC, ridiculous EA account bans, cannibalization of smaller developers, and insistence upon shoving Origin down PC Gamer’s throats did nothing to help EA’s continually falling stock prices.
I’d like to say that events like these could become watershed moments that make people like John Riccitiello open their eyes and see that offering real value to gamers is the way to go in the long run, rather than using doing their best to make it sound like they’re doing everyone a favor by nickle and diming the shirts off your backs. However, more than likely, they’ll just blame CoD, piracy and the used game industry and try to milk us even harder on their way down. I guess time will have to tell.
UPDATE: Apparently EA was quick to respond to the rampantly spreading story and issued a response, telling MCV “There are no lay-offs as such, we always have projects growing and morphing. At any given time there are new people coming in and others leaving. EA is growing and hiring and building teams to support the growing demand for digital games and services.”
Frankly, with phrases like “as such” liberally thrown into the mix, this response just doesn’t read like an outright denial. In fact it seems to me that they’re pretty clearly saying that a good number of current employees will indeed be leaving EA while a similar or greater amount will soon enter as EA attempts to bolster its casual online gaming division and possibly its Origin service. Again, we’ll have to see how it goes in the long run.