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EA Shuts Down Pandemic Studios, Cuts 200 Jobs 161

lbalbalba writes "Electronic Arts is shutting down its Westwood-based game developer Pandemic Studios just two years after acquiring it, putting nearly 200 people out of work. 'The struggling video game publisher informed employees Tuesday morning that it was closing the studio as part of a recently announced plan to eliminate 1,500 jobs, or 16% of its global workforce. Pandemic has about 220 employees, but an EA spokesman said that a core team, estimated by two people close to the studio to be about 25, will be integrated into the publisher's other Los Angeles studio, in Playa Vista.' An ex-developer for Pandemic attributed the studio's struggles to poor decisions from the management."
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EA Shuts Down Pandemic Studios, Cuts 200 Jobs

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  • EA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:12AM (#30168302) Journal

    EA destroys and corrupts whatever it touches. A developer being bought by EA is the kiss of death for all their franchises, IMO. The classic example is Westwood Studios and a series that was very dear to me, Command & Conquer.

    At least we'll always have new versions of Madden!

  • Re:EA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geekner ( 1080577 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:35AM (#30168442)
    This shouldn't come as a suprise, look at Pandemic's release history []. While there are a few good games here, most of them are quite average to mediocre. They seem to release little other than sequels and middle-of-the-genre titles. I doubt their sales records were spectacular. Thus, when EA started to hurt, they went to cut the least profitable studio.

    I wonder what will happen to their next game, The Saboteur, which is due out in 3 weeks. It is worth noting that they have no other projects announced recently, perhaps this was long on the horizon.
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by almechist ( 1366403 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:39AM (#30168460)

    Pandemic studios never made anything worth having

    I beg to differ. Battlezone 2 was and still is one of the best games ever made, easily one of the most immersive games around, one that never gets stale, which is maybe why it still has a loyal following. What other game from 10 years ago still has new mods coming out, to say nothing of substantial revisions to the original game done by some of the original programmers working on their own time?

  • by PaladinAlpha ( 645879 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:40AM (#30168468)

    This makes sense. EA is strapped for cash. It's not like they just designed, developed, leased, furnished, and staffed a couple of storefronts on prime real estate to advertise one game to a limited audience [].

    Companies don't know how to manage money anymore. Long term gains (like a productive group with experience working together) are traded for short term gains (advertising gimmicks) so often that nowadays it's just the expected mode of operation.

    I don't know too much about Pandemic Studios in particular, but I've been hearing about a LOT of layoffs at EA, and at the same time it's almost like they are throwing money away on brand placement. No company ever thinks to improve their bottom line by steadily generating quality product anymore. The money that goes into solid development is always the dregs of money first given to analysts and marketers.

    I'm normally not a foaming-at-the-mouth anti-establishment labor-theory humanist, but things like this (especially with the oft-cited 'global economy') really and truly make me sick.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:46AM (#30168500) Journal
    To be fair, there is very little evidence that EA could, in fact, improve their bottom line by steadily generating quality product. Since they've never managed to steadily generate quality product, we'll never know.
  • Re:Damn it, EA... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @02:13AM (#30168634) Homepage

    EA really is the touch of death.

    They suck up a company and intellectual property, they cut the budgets, take over management of the game, and demand a copy be on the shelves six months from three months ago, whether it's ready to go or not. They'll release an alpha build if that's what it takes, then they'll take it out of the ass of the company they bought when the game fails. They never take responsibility for their actions.

    I pray EA never comes out with a Wing Commander game. The Command and Conquer days have long since been over, the dream has been killed off. I don't want that to happen to Wing Commander. From my experiences with the SNES Wing Commanders and the Privateer games, I hold those sacred in my heart. EA doesn't need to fuck those up, either, but neither will they sell the IP in fears that it might conflict with Madden games.

  • Re:EA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by an unsound mind ( 1419599 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @02:29AM (#30168700)

    Except that the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights IP is tied to the D&D license - from Hasbro.

    Knights of the Old Republic? LucasArts and Hasbro.

    They'd lose Dragon Age, Mass Effect and Jade Empire - and bunch of technology, naturally.

  • Re:EA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @02:31AM (#30168706)

    Westwood and Origin both hung themselves with the rope that EA gave them. Pandemic did the same, as the second link in this story makes clear. All this shows is that when you give people a bigger budget, the problems don't go away, they get bigger too. It has nothing to do with EA buying the studio; having EA around to bankroll the studio just makes the death spiral that much more spectacular.

  • by wynterwynd ( 265580 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @03:03AM (#30168812)

    I don't disagree with your stance on EA, but I don't think that EA spending this money on the storefronts in the article is really a big waste.

    It's a marketing test bed, basically. Some junior executive somewhere "synergized" the apple store concept and made a couple stores to test out EA Active on their target market, namely moms whose kids have Wiis (I have no doubt these stores were in malls), and to get some feedback on the product. The market for that is gigantic and right now there's only Wii Fit and a handful of others to tap into it.

    I don't think a 6 months worth of rent and cheap labor at two locations is more expensive than a large focus study to improve your product or a massive blanket ad campaign that your market won't identify with, each costing millions. Plus their results will be more real and targeted.

    And I think 6 months is a good estimate; they won't be around long, I'm sure. Note the decor from the pic in the Kotaku article. Note the lack of permanent fixtures. Stylishly minimalist, yes. Moves out easily, too.

    EA has to keep trying things like this. It is a giant lumbering beast, borne of an economic boom and grown under those times of plenty. It consumed its kin and grew more massive still, and now it is a large, unwieldy thing and times are getting slim. It must feed on new cash crops, or limbs begin to wither and fall away. So you'll likely see more gimmick attempts to make a signature brand or one-up breakout successes, any attempt to sustain the creature. I don't think they'll succeed. EA doesn't make games anymore, they just buy people who do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @03:46AM (#30168868)

    EA's management is the demise of that company. They pull all their developers from games once they are done and leave noone to fix bugs. They very rarely release patches for anything. There are many online games that have had game impacting issues for years that just drive people away. If they were smart they would get on the model of releasing paid items into some of their games to pull in extra revenue. Or releasing more MAP packs for some of their better games that they just mothball. I hope the whole company folds and makes way for some other game companies that actually care about the user experience.

  • Re:EA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nossie ( 753694 ) <IanHarvie@@@4Development...Net> on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:37AM (#30170266)

    One word:


  • Re:EA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by numbski ( 515011 ) <> on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:33AM (#30170796) Homepage Journal

    I have long boycotted EA - anything they make I won't buy, period. They mistreat their workforce, they use business practices that are borderline illegal to illegal (not paying aged football players for their rights and going around them), to just plain evil - like buying the exclusive rights to just about every kind of american football, and to the ESPN name just so they wouldn't have to compete with Visual Concepts/TakeTwo on Madden, after a sound trouncing from NFL2K5, then having the gall to have a shareholders meeting where the CEO says "we have to make sure this is not repeatable" about All-Pro Football 2K8 - essentially then making sure that VC/T2 can't resign those legends to do 2K9/2K10 (whichever release they managed to hit).

    Enough is enough already.

    It's getting more and more difficult to boycott them though. Not because they're making better titles, but because they own or are buying up just about everyone. Rock Band as their name slapped on it. Brutal Legend. I mean COME ON. They get their cut just about everywhere. BOOM BLOX. Freaking Boom Blox.

    I. AM. SO. SICK. OF. EA.

    E. A. Sports. We own the game. All of them.

  • Re:EA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nossie ( 753694 ) <IanHarvie@@@4Development...Net> on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:06AM (#30171200)

    so true....

    I was almost thinking Sims 3 might bring them back into quality...

    Then I found out about them releasing a half finished empty game that micro transactioned you into the ground...

    First sims game I actually bought - and it will be the last.

    Spore was a great idea - that EA management managed to butcher because their 'user groups' felt were too intelligent for the masses.

    Simcity Societies ... what? !

    I realised then, whatever was left of maxis was gone.

    I dont really think the problem is that hard to find... to quote a kotaku comment:

    "Somehow, this pushes EA back towards the top of my hated publishers list"

    Outside of jock sports I believe people now vote with their wallets after being repeatedly raped over stupid release after stupid release watching their favourite brands/houses becoming assimilated. I'm also sure that whenever workers are being told they are being taken over by EA, those that dont jump out the window and commit suicide scurry home to update their resume. Hardly a great work ethic is it?

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?