PopCap may close its Dublin office as it begins ‘reduction in force’

22 Aug 2012

Pictured: PopCap's Dublin offices

PopCap Games, makers of the popular Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies games, is cutting 50 jobs mostly at its Seattle headquarters. It has admitted that it is in ‘exploratory consultation’ about the future of its offices in Dublin.

PopCap Games was acquired by Electronic Arts (EA Games) in July last year for over US$750m.

Last year it announced plans to expand its workforce in Dublin to 110. It employs 400 people worldwide.

Writing in the company blog PopCap co-founder John Vechey said: “‘Reduction In Force’ means that some people are losing their jobs. ‘Exploratory consultation’ means we’re talking to our Dublin team about the future of that office and whether we can find a path to improve our profitability in Europe without having to close the operation. Today’s news is something you expect periodically from a company in a fast-changing industry, but it sucks if you’re one of the people losing his or her job. These people are our friends and we don’t like doing this.

“We’ve made hard decisions before, even had cuts before – at this time in North America there are about 50 people who will no longer work at PopCap. We’ve hired aggressively this past year and PopCap is still growing. Even with the cuts we expect to end the year with roughly the same number of people we started with.

“A little context on why we’re making cuts in some areas while we’re investing and expanding in others: In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play and pay for games. 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.”

He went on: “There’s also an economic component to the reorganisation. 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.”

Local industry reaction

The potential closure of PopCap’s Dublin offices has been met with surprise and sadness by the local games industry in Dublin. Locally, serious efforts are afoot to grow Ireland as a global games hub and foster indigenous talent and the presence of PopCap was seen by many as a jewel in the crown.

David Sweeney of industry group Games Ireland said: “These changes at Popcap whilst undoubtedly a blow to their talented and productive Dublin team seem to be part of a global restructuring.

“The ongoing growth of the Irish games industry means that any changes in Pearse Street should spin off some great new companies so the considerable talent built up so far will not go to waste locally,” Sweeney said.

Richard Barnwell of Digit Games, which recently opened a new studio in the city added: “We’re really sad to hear that Popcap Dublin is closing. They were a well respected and talented development team. We went through the process at Jolt earlier in the year and know that the PopCap team will find roles in the growing Irish games industry.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years