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Popcap Dublin Axed In 'Integration' Plan

He may never speak of what it is that saddens him so

Here’s a fact of a life: when a large corporation (for instance, a games publisher. For instance, EA) buys up an exciting, highly-respected smaller, independent firm (for instance, a games developer. For instance, PopCap), the following process will invariably happen:

1) Happy, positive talk of independence, unfettered creativity and bright futures from both sides
2) A gradual shift into having that developer do what it’s told, rather than what it wants
3) Redundancies at or closure of the developer once it doesn’t look to be providing a suitably enormous return on the obscene sum paid to acquire it in the first place
4) Repeat

So, best of luck to all those who sailed in the good ship PopCap Dublin, which newish owners EA closed down today. Edit: Though apparently it was “the PopCap leadership team” which pulled the trigger on this.

96 people are affected, according to a statement sent to sites including MCV, though apparently some have been offered placements in other parts of PopCap and EA. Which aren’t in Ireland, but apparently some “new opportunities with technology partners” are. EA also recently opened a “European Customer Experience Center” in Galway, so hopefully there’ll be some decent opportunities there.

The Dublin closure follows lay-offs at its Seattle branch last month. Blamed for those lay-offs and Dublin’s plunge into ‘consultation status’ a few weeks back, were “duplicative roles” elsewhere at EA, so they “accelerated the integration there.” Integration! Integration, I’m fairly sure, means bringing things together, rather than removing some of them from the building. Perhaps I’m too much of a literalist.

PopCap Dublin was the Peggle firm’s European HQ, and I believe didn’t get up to quite as much development as its American arm, so apparently the cut roles broadly involve ” central resources, legal, business affairs” and that sort of thing. It’s still very sad to see this once-proud company being mashed into a new form designed to suit a larger overlord.

No doubt PopCap’s owners cashed out massively as part of the acquisition, so that side of things I understand. It’s the publisher side of things that’s a little more bewildering to me, from my myopic, business uncomphrending view of it all – so many times a publisher buys a developer (in this case for $650m plus $100m in stock options), then proceeds to slowly dismantle that developer rather than play to its strengths. It seems so counter-productive. But large companies do not share a single brain: quite possibly, the person who thought acquring PopCap was a great idea isn’t the same person who frowned at a bottom line a year later.

Again, best of luck to those affected – may you find new roles in kindly places very soon.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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