As many of you know, I worked for Black Box for many years, the only EA studio in Vancouver that didn’t develop sports games. Once I left Black Box, I kept my eye on the studio as many of my good friends and former co-workers still worked there.
Here’s an interesting fact about Black Box, as a studio, they have laid off a large number of people after every single game they’ve released since 2008. You should also know that EA loves laying people off around the time they announce their financial quarter results.
So, I’ve been somewhat nervous lately because of two things. First, Black Box released their latest game Need For Speed: The Run last November. It was not received warmly by the critics. EA tries to generally target for an 80 average critics score. The Run didn’t even come close to that. The second thing that made me nervous was that February meant the end of the latest financial quarter. Those two things sure pointed towards some layoffs. A whole team that didn’t make a home run hit and didn’t have a new tangible project to work on.
Well today, what had been anticipated for weeks finally happened. I don’t know all the details because I’m still in San Diego but I do know several people have been told they will no longer work for Black Box. Some have been given the opportunity to work with other EA teams, most likely in Montreal, where the industry is much stronger than in Vancouver. I know some people will choose to stay in Vancouver so they’ll take EA’s severance package and move on from EA.
If I could be selfish for a moment, this is not good news for me. Obviously, I don’t like seeing people losing their jobs but also keep in mind I’m also unemployed right now. This development means the pool of unemployed developers in Vancouver is now larger. I already had to compete with the people from the closure of Ubisoft Vancouver but now there is more.
The one question I still have, is there a Black Box anymore? I have a feeling they are not working on a new game right now. So what are the remaining employees doing?
I hope to find more out when I come back home.