In my previous post I wrote that this would be a big announcement of sorts. As many of you already know, today Electronic Arts shut down the downtown Vancouver studio that I worked for. The more astute readers out there might have noticed I knew that the studio closure was coming. That was in fact, quite true, all of us knew for several weeks in advance. We didn’t know today was going to be the day until about a week or so in advance. Most studio closures in my industry happen without warning or very little warning, so this was actually good that we knew with so much notice. Earlier in the week, our office manager gave away all the studio swag that we had lying around. I got a few boxed games that the studio had previously released, some plush toys, a nail clipper, and a mug. Most people didn’t even have to clean off their desks today because all of us had already taken all of our things home in the preceding weeks.
As expected, there were support staff from both Seattle and Burnaby to assist myself and my co-workers into the realm of unemployment. It’s interesting to note that they gave out severance packages to all of us immediately. During some EA layoffs, they sometimes hold off on giving out severance as they try place individuals at other EA teams. During this limbo period, people are still paid their salary and in effect, are still employees, just without a team. Only when it’s clear that no suitable positions are available is severance then discussed and offered. This did not happen today. That’s not to say, however, that there won’t be attempts to place people elsewhere. There were a few recruiters present in the studio today who were available for consultation. If you wanted to perhaps stay within EA, they were willing to discuss your background and skill set. To keep my options open, I spoke to one such person this afternoon. They will reach out to other teams within EA to see if there’s a good fit for me. Understandably, some of my other former co-workers were less interested in pursuing other opportunities within EA. There’s a real entrepreneurial and independent spirit within some of them, so they will definitely be going the indy route going forward. I applaud them for being bold and brave.
It took less than two hours for the formal announcement, the speeches, and all the individual meetings with HR to wrap up. I’m sure there was lots of work behind the scenes but the nitty-gritty execution of shutting down a studio was done in two hours. It didn’t take long for the news to get out into the public. Someone from our studio tweeted the news which then got picked up by several major news sites. He was Internet “famous” for several hours. Also as an example of how fast new travels, one of our designers was able to get his photo taken and interviewed for the Vancouver Sun before the end of the day. The story appeared online well before I even got home!
As you might imagine, most everyone wound up at a nearby bar once everything had wrapped up. To his credit, one of the original founders of the company accompanied us to the drinking establishment and paid for a substantial amount of food and alcohol. He wasn’t directly involved in the decision to shut us down but I appreciated his kind gesture. We spent most of the afternoon drinking, eating, and talking. There was a lot of “what’s your plan going forward?” and it was interesting to hear all the answers. A lot of people are going to take some time off. Some are taking a week off, while at least one plans on taking the whole summer off. Some are staying in the games industry, while others have decided now is a good time to exit.
After about five hours at the bar, I was getting too tired for my own good, so I headed home. I said my goodbyes to the remaining now ex-co-workers. As for my own future, I think a lot of you know I cherish any time off I can get. I’m hoping to get at least a few weeks off to relax and rest. I’m not burdened by any financial restrictions that might force me to jump into a job right away, so I’m extremely thankful for that. It’s a shame that once again I’ve been removed by EA from a downtown Vancouver studio. We were the only remaining downtown Vancouver presence for EA but now that’s all gone. I’m looking forward to some time off. To a brighter and more rested future.