From image to infrastructure, the beginning of 2013 has been unkind, to say the least, to Electronic Arts. Fresh from enduring the chaotic launch of a bug-infested always-online SimCity, the publisher witnessed the abrupt resignation of CEO John Riccitiello back in March. Earlier this April, EA inadvertently defended its title as the “Worst Company in America,” winning The Consumerist’s eponymous online poll for a second consecutive year.
Today, though, new events revealed that its troubles are far from over.
Citing multiple anonymous sources close to the matter, Game Informer has reported that EA Partners is on the verge of being shut down. EA Partners was founded in 2009 as a means for smaller, independent development studios to leverage the publishing prowess of Electronic Arts, preserving their status as a standalone as opposed to, you know, folding into outright acquisition.
Crytek’s Cryisis trilogy, Starbreeze’s Syndicate, Harmonix’s Rock Band, Double Fine’s BrÃ¼tal Legend, Epic’s Bulletstorm, Valve’s The Orange Box, Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead: each was brought to fruition through its involvement with EA Partners, and Electronic Arts itself has often heralded the operation as a financial and creative success. EA Partners did serve to publish 2011’s Kingdom’s of Amalur — the $75 million taxpayer-funded money pit of Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios — but it’s never been suggested that any of 38’s losses were also incurred upon Electronic Arts.
As a brief respite, Game Informer’s sources did claim that two of the major forthcoming titles under EA Partners — Respawn Entertainment’s debut game, codenamed “Project Titan”, and Insomniac’s Fuse — will remain unaffected. Unfortunately, the shutdown appears to have been a precursor for a widespread round of Electronic Arts layoffs — and even full studio shutdowns.
Aligning itself further toward the mobile market and what it calls “new technologies,” the company announced today that is will be streamlining its workforce across multiple areas:
“In recent weeks, EA has aligned all elements of its organizational structure behind priorities in new technologies and mobile. This has led to some difficult decisions to reduce the workforce in some locations. We are extremely grateful for the contributions made by each of our employees — those that are leaving EA will be missed by their colleagues and friends.
“These are hard but essential changes as we focus on delivering great games and showing players around the world why to spend their time with us.”
According to Polygon, however, the situation is more dire than the announcement lets on: Layoffs allegedly “number in the hundreds,” extending to nearly every functional area of Electronic Arts. Furthermore, several of the now-released employees have taken to Twitter confirming the reports, and their disclosures have led to the revelation EA is shutting down PopCap Vancouver and Quickline Games — the latter having been molded out of EA Black Box employees who developed Need for Speed: World.
For all intents and purposes Electronic Arts is a large corporation — this year it alone it reported possessing over 9,000 employees. “Restructuring” happens. In this case, however, the word couldn’t be more euphemistic. Not only does it undersell the struggles now faced by today’s affected employees but it also fails to highlight the struggles that have been facing the company financially over the last several years. Former CEO John Riccitiello took accountability personally for what he deemed “shortcomings” in EA’s fiscal performance when he resigned last month; and the wide-ranging termination of entire studios and partnerships seems just as much a bid for solvency as it does efficiency.
EA is scheduled to hold an earnings call for the fiscal year 2013 on May 7 — it may be waiting until then to confirm the fate of EA Partners. In any case, for the company that’s in the midst of painting Battlefield 4 as the next generation’s definitive first-person shooter, the current generation can’t end fast enough.
What do you make of EA’s current position within the video game industry?
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