Only yesterday we were bringing the heart-pleasing news that PopCap are hard at work on Plants Versus Zombies 2 and that it'll be shuffling up our lawn next year, now we learn that they've laid off a number of staff and that they may have been doing it on the sly for the past few months. And, as confirmed in a blog post this morning, the future of the Dublin studio is looking in jeopardy as it is facing 'Exploratory Consulation'. Which sounds pretty terrifying.
Firstly, what we do know is that PopCap today let a number of their employees go. From the blog post and the tone of Jeff Green's twitter account, the number is looking to be about 50, although if Dublin goes, it's going to be a whole lot more.
George Broussard, who, whilst not an employee of PopCap was the first to talk about them laying off staff: yesterday he tweeted: "Sources say shakeup and layoff's are imminent at PopCap." Suggesting in a later tweet that it was a result of pressure from EA ownership, "I think PopCap will struggle to be successful in an EA world that demands more products, squeezing IP dry and less dev time." The numbers that Broussard is claiming are, well, significant: "PopCap Dublin/Shanghai shut down/shrunk. 50ish people in Seattle laid off. "
The news that it might have been going on for a while came from a source speaking to VG24/7. The source claims that PopCap had “very quietly” been laying off staff for “several months."
The reasons given on the Popcap blog are depressing but seem realistic. The changing face of social and casual games mean that Popcap can't be Popcap any more, as it has been functioning for years. With Free to Play, Facebook and both iOS and Android games inching towards the stratosphere, the position for Bejeweled and Zuma's Revenge in all this is looking uncertain. While Peggle has done well on iOS, it's clearly not the smash hit that they were hoping for.
None of this should be taken to mean Popcap is facing administration of bankruptcy or anything so drastic. These layoffs, and even the closure of the Dublin studio, are an effort to get Popcap back in a position where they can "manage costs, improve efficiency and maintain a profit." And while that might seem a touch greedy and too business minded, firstly Popcap is a business, but also high profits mean they can take risks on new IPs, and that's why Plants vs Zombies exists.
Although, from what we've heard the original Plants vs Zombies designer, George Fan, is to be laid off.
We've reached out to PopCap for comment.