2019 continues to be a rubbish year for job stability in the industry, as Electronic Arts have laid off 350 people, mostly in marketing and publishing, and their overseas offices. Kotaku got hold of an internal e-mail to employees from CEO Andrew Wilson stating that the cuts were to “streamline decision-making in the marketing and publishing departments”. I can only hope that there’s a similarly streamlined path to new jobs available to those areas hit, especially those in EA’s Japanese and Russian offices, which are facing closure.
The silver lining here is that EA are at least handling the layoffs professionally. Severance will be paid, and they’re “working with employees to try and find other roles within the company”, so hopefully the final number of people lost will be less than the 350 reported. Per Kotaku’s sources at EA, the layoffs have been expected for some time, and there had been a several-month-long hiring freeze. Awful as it is to lose your job, at least EA are equipped to do this right. EA also gave a statement to Kotaku here, including mention that the company employs around 9000 people.
This comes not long after Activision laid off a massive 800 people just a month ago, only to then sheepishly inform investors that it may “negatively impact business”, per Gamespot. We’ve also seen layoffs across major studios, like Guild Wars 2 studio ArenaNet, and of course last year’s tragedy of Telltale’s implosion and the sudden loss of all jobs at the studio. Telltale’s case was especially awful as they had been hiring right up until the moment the company collapsed, leaving workers displaced, severance unpaid and lawsuits against the owners still brewing.
Here’s hoping that there’s no more major layoffs for the rest of the year, but I suspect there’s still room for things to get worse. The industry is tightening its belt, with even smaller storefronts like GOG cutting around 10% of their staff in order to balance the books. While it’s not unusual for studios to hire and fire to keep up with manpower demands during development, publishers and distributors drastically downsizing feels like a symptom of a larger disease.