Earlier in the week we reported that PopCap is working on a sequel to Plants vs Zombies. Alas, there’s some bad news nipping at the heels of that happy announcement: PopCap recently laid off 50 North American employees, and is also in the process of re-evaluating the role of its Dublin office. Yesterday, PopCap co-founder John Vechey addressed the layoffs in a blog post.
According to Vechey’s post, the rapid rise of the free-to-play market has made it necessary for PopCap to do some restructuring. ‘In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play and pay for games,’ Vechey wrote. ‘Free-to-play, social and mobile games have exploded in popularity. That happened fast. Surprisingly so. The change in consumer tastes requires us to reorganize our business and invest in new types of games on new platforms. It’s a completely different world from when we started.’
Free-to-play isn’t the only reason for the layoffs, though. Vechey admits that a company needs to make a profit before it can invest in new IP. ‘To stay in business, we need to manage costs, improve efficiency and maintain a profit. We’ve been able to invest in creative new games like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies because we had a high profit business. That business is challenged, and if we don’t adapt, we won’t be able to invest in new IP. That sounds harsh–but if we don’t stay in business, no more plants, zombies, jewels, frogs or worms.’
Vechey’s post also praises EA for its support, and confirms that the layoffs are 100% PopCap’s decision. ‘We’re glad to have [EA's] resources supporting us when a lot of other independent studios are struggling,’ Vechey wrote. ‘In addition, some of the people affected by the reorganization may be retrained and reassigned to other jobs in the EA studios. If we didn’t have EA behind us, the cuts would have been worse.’
So what’s next for PopCap? The company is looking into more mobile and social options, and is expanding into China and Japan.
And, of course, it’s also working on that new Plants vs Zombies game.
We here at Slide to Play wish the affected staff at PopCap all the best in their future projects.