PopCap hopes that by laying off about 45 employees and becoming a “smaller, leaner” studio, it will be able to find success in the ultracompetitive world of mobile games.
PopCap, the Seattle video-game studio behind “Bejeweled” and “Plants vs. Zombies,” is laying off about a quarter of its staff in the hope that a “smaller, leaner” studio will be able to find success in the ultracompetitive world of mobile games.
About 45 employees will be laid off in the first week of July, according to a notice PopCap parent Electronic Arts filed with state labor regulators. EA didn’t disclose how many people the studio currently employs.
This time a year ago, PopCap’s head count was 165. Based on that figure, the layoffs would be about 27 percent of its staff.
When the studio was acquired by EA for as much as $1.3 billion in 2011, PopCap employed about 500 people.
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Matt Nutt, PopCap’s general manager since September, said last week that layoffs were coming, telling employees that the gaming landscape had changed dramatically since EA bought the studio.
“Our PopCap studio in Seattle continues to be home to amazingly creative teams,” he said in an email, later posted to Twitter. “But we need to evolve to ensure that our big ideas are going to continue to excite and give players more of what we do best.”
Nutt said the studio would focus on “key titles and new projects.” The studio would return to its roots, he said, “smaller, leaner, pushing hard to build new things.”
PopCap was founded in 2000, a startup initially called Sexy Action Cool by its three founders. It grew into a giant of casual and social-media gaming, and was an anchor of Seattle’s video-game industry when the company was sold to EA, the giant California-based game publisher.
Since then, the rise of smartphones and mobile free-to-play games, in which players can start playing for free but typically spend small sums to add enhancements to the game, upended PopCap’s model of selling games that required customers to pay upfront.
The ease of selling games on Google Play and Apple’s App Store also brought out more competitors.
PopCap tried returning to its early gems in 2016 with an update to its “Bejeweled” franchise, the first released under EA’s ownership. “Bejeweled Stars” spent its first few weeks on the market near the top of the download charts on Play and the App Store, but quickly declined, according to data from AppAnnie. The game doesn’t rank in the top 200 grossing games in the U.S. in either marketplace, App Annie data show.