EA Drops Plan for Still-In-Progress Yaletown Studio

1111 MainlandStraight out the window of the Techvibes office in Yaletown, we’ve been watching crews build another two floors onto a previously three storey heritage building. As we first reported back in May, these two new floors were destined to become a new 20,000 square-foot Electronic Arts game studio, complementing the EA Black Box studio deeper downtown, and the EA Canada campus in Burnaby. This renovation isn’t complete yet, but the Globe and Mail is reporting that EA is cancelling plans to open the studio, citing global economic uncertainty.

EA announced plans to trim about 6 per cent of its global work force when the company reported its most recent quarterly financial results on Oct. 30. But on Tuesday, the company said it was increasing the number of planned layoffs in addition to plans to consolidate some of its facilities and to reduce the number of games it will produce in fiscal 2010.

“While we saw significant improvement in the overall quality of our key products this year, we are disappointed that our holiday slate is not meeting our sales expectations,” EA chief executive officer John Riccitiello said in a statement. “Given this performance and the uncertain economic environment, we are taking steps to reduce our cost structure and improve the profitability of our business.”

On the upside, I suppose this means that a nice chunk of hot office space just opened up at a hot spot in low-vacancy Yaletown, right above Blenz and the Yaletown Brew Pub. No word yet on what will become of the space.

Quick tip to EA for improving profitability: slow your development cycles and stop pushing garbage games with heavy marketing, and locking them down with invasive copy protection. As a longtime fan of the Need for Speed series, I had hopes for the latest NFS: Undercover, but was very disappointed, as were most of the critics. A fine sports car shouldn’t drive like a mattress floating on air. Legimate users shouldn’t have to put up with copy protection glitching their computer when pirates can get the clean, cracked version anyhow. Spend some time playing Race Driver GRID before hashing out the next title to milk the NFS franchise.

If anyone has some specific numbers on how many EA folk have been let go in Metro Vancouver, we’d be curious to hear.