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AdversityVille: Massive Layoffs At Zynga, Bigpoint

In modern society, we tend to throw around the phrase “worst day ever” pretty loosely. Stubbed your toe? Worst day ever. Forgot to have “the help” restock your yacht with perfectly chilled bottles of imported Mars water? Worst day ever. Looked on helplessly as you and nearly 250 other talented individuals in your line of work suddenly found yourselves jobless? OK, now we’re getting somewhere. That’s today’s unfortunate tale, straight from the frontlines of struggling social behemoth Zynga and Battlestar Galactica Online creator Bigpoint. Details after the break.

Zynga unceremoniously broke the news to well over 100 employees at its Austin, Boston, and Chicago offices during Apple’s attention black hole of an iPad Mini conference. And while Zynga’s hardly the first company to time layoffs with major press events, it’s still pretty darn yucky. As of writing, the Austin layoffs have been confirmed, with the studio still remaining operational at a vastly smaller employee count. According to Gamasutra, however, both The Ville (target of EA’s much-publicized lawsuit) and a new IP are “done.” Meanwhile, word on the street (read: Twitter; streets went extinct 36 years ago) is that Zynga’s closed its entire Boston studio and carved up much of its Chicago location with a job-reaping scythe.

Bigpoint, on the other hand, was far more public with its layoffs, but that doesn’t make the 120 job losses any less of a bitter pill to swallow. CEO Heiko Hubertz is also stepping down, effectively shuttering all Bigpoint development in the US. “We have seen that developing games in the US is not really the most efficient way for us at the moment,” Hubertz told GamesIndustry International. “The games that we have developed in the last two years haven’t been that successful, and the San Francisco area and Bay Area is quite a competitive market.”

On the upside, the industry is – as always – doing a sterling job of reaching out. Among others, PopCap, Harmonix, and thatgamecompany have publicly offered a helping hand – with numerous developers across the US making similar gestures to pick up displaced talent.

And let us take a moment to remember: these are talented people we’re talking about. No, you may not like Zynga’s output (I know I sure don’t), but it employs enormous swathes of smart, hard-working individuals. While Zynga’s fall seems all but inevitable at this point, I can’t root for something that’ll see so many people put in a position of such frightening uncertainty. So instead, I’m wishing everyone the absolute best. This industry can be unbelievably cutthroat sometimes, but stay strong, everyone.

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Nathan Grayson

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