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No UK Studio layoffs as yet, as EA slashes development headcount

US layoffs part of re-evaluation.

Electronic Arts' UK studio, headquartered in Chertsey, appears to have escaped unscathed so far after sweeping job cuts at the firm's US studios claimed an estimated five per cent of the firm's global development workforce.

However, while sources at the company indicate that no staff in the firm's European studios have been laid off, a company spokesperson speaking to today could not confirm that none are in the pipeline.

"Every division is going through evaluation," the firm's European communications director Tiffany Steckler told us today. "We're looking around the company to see how to best align teams everywhere against what needs to happen for future growth."

Reports from the United States indicate that as many as 350 staff - around 5 per cent of the company's head-count - may have been laid off from the large development locations in Vancouver, Redwood Shores and Tiburon yesterday.

However, those numbers have yet to be confirmed. "I don't have numbers to confirm - in fact, I think some of the reports from the US overnight had different sets of numbers," commented Steckler. "What I can tell you is that, essentially, we're looking all around the company. Every division is going to look through and evaluate how to best re-align their people, their investments and our technologies against a set of priorities that will take us through transition and allow us to capture the next wave of growth."

Steckler characterised the layoffs as being a reorganisation by the company to ensure that "we're focusing on the key growth areas."

"In any gaming company, during a transition you take steps to help align for the future," she explained. "That's really what this is about."

The layoffs seemingly contradict comments from many senior figures in the industry, including senior EA executives, who have expressed a belief in recent years that team sizes will need to increase the challenges of next-generation development, but Steckler denied that there was any dichotomy apparent.

"I think the thing to keep in mind is that this is a strategic approach to things," she explained. "You may see in some areas team sizes getting smaller; in other areas, team sizes may grow. Again, it's about putting resource, people and investment behind the areas that we most think are critical to our growth for the future. I don't think it's a like-for-like kind of thing... Some team sizes may get smaller, and some team sizes may grow, depending on what makes sense for the business. What we announced yesterday is not incompatible with what we've been saying in the past."

Among the staff who have been laid off, however, feelings are running high - especially as many claim to have been assured that their jobs were secure only days previously.

"Aside from the anger of the initial shock, I'm feeling quite burned by this, because as recently as a week ago I was told by a lead in my department that our jobs were safe despite lower earnings and that we did not need to worry," one former developer at the EA Redwood Shores campus told us today. "Suffice it to say, we had a lot to worry about."

"I've always supported EA during my time there, but to be told that our jobs were safe just one week ago and have this happen today, I feel disrespected," he concluded. "We deserved better."

One other element rumoured to be a part of the restructuring of the company's development teams is a widespread roll-out of the game engine developed for forthcoming movie licensed title The Godfather to EA's worldwide studios.

Steckler denied that the reorganisation could be pinned to "a single something," saying that "I wouldn't point to one specific thing - it's not a piece of technology or a specific game, or a particular team."

However, if the Godfather engine is being rolled out to the firm's worldwide studios, it may point to difficulties down the line for the Guildford-based development team on the Renderware product, which was acquired by EA two years ago and is reported to have seen a massive decline in third party licensing agreements since the acquisition.