EA's mobile games unit PopCap cuts North American staff

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Aug 21, 2012 7:41pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - PopCap, a social and mobile gaming arm of Electronic Arts (EA.O), cut about 12 percent of its North American workforce and is evaluating the viability of its Dublin studio as it copes with a rapidly evolving social and mobile gaming market.

EA acquired PopCap, known for "Bejeweled" and "Plants vs Zombies," for $1.3 billion in 2011 to expand beyond its traditional videogames slate into casual and mobile games, and taking on the likes of Zynga Inc (ZNGA.O).

PopCap laid off 50 of about 380 staff members in its Seattle and Vancouver studios, spokesman Garth Chouteau said on Tuesday. PopCap also employs a staff of about 40 in San Francisco.

In Ireland, the company is re-examining the future of its Dublin studio, which has roughly 90 employees, Chouteau said.

Seattle-based PopCap makes easy-to-play games for Facebook and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

"The change in consumer tastes requires us to reorganize our business and invest in new types of games on new platforms," said PopCap co-founder John Vechey in a blog post.

Vechey said the growing popularity of the free-to-play model in social and casual games calls for a new strategy that would involve managing costs and reorganization.

Some publishers have said they are seeing slower growth in social gaming on platforms like Facebook, versus the proliferation of games on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

Electronic Arts' executives, in an earnings call with analysts last month, warned that PopCap is currently up against "a little bit more of a headwind" in the social gaming space.

"The decision to reorganize was 100 percent made by us, with no pressure from EA," Vechey said.

PopCap also has a studio in Shanghai with 95 employees, and a total global workforce of about 600.

(Reporting By Malathi Nayak; editing by Gunna Dickson and M.D. Golan)

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