As my last post reported there were significant layoffs today at Black Box, the studio that I work at. As of this writing, many of us still don’t know the extent of the layoffs as no clear number has been reported.
Unfortunately, today’s action was not a complete surprise. For months, rumours had been swirling that Black Box was going to be affected by EA’s cost-cutting measures. Just last week there were new rumblings of impending action. It finally came to a head yesterday afternoon when a studio-wide e-mail went out, asking all employees to be at work by no later than 9:30am the next day. Management would be addressing all the rumours at that point.
To make a long story short, it all went down like this today. Some employees got an e-mail at 10am to proceed downstairs for more information. The rest did not get any e-mails at all initially. Once the first group had vacated for the ground floor conference room, the remaining employees finally received their e-mail. The ones who had left were now out of a job. The ones still at their desks still had a job… for how long, who knows? For whatever reason due to whatever strategy they used, I was in the group that made it through.
We were told to leave the studio immediately so that the others could pack up in private. We had the day off from then on but we were told to report to work the next day at 10am sharp. At that time, we were to meet at a nearby hotel ballroom so that more info could be dispensed. If you want to read the whole e-mail yourself, you can find it here. To be clear, I was not the one who forwarded this e-mail to outside sources.
Because we all left hurriedly in random groups and didn’t want to stick around outside the studio, we dispersed into mixed clumps of people. I wound up at a nearby pub with remaining skate team survivors, mainly engineers with a random designer mixed in. We started drinking immediately and it wasn’t even 11am yet. The mood was a mix of shock and disappointment, sombre overall. There was an intial flurry of texts and cell phone calls as people phoned to let loved ones know they were ok. We were also phoning to determine who had made it and who had not. I remembered I had my Dell Mini with me and I was soon connected to the free pub wi-fi. Almost immediately I was inundated with queries across Facebook, e-mail, and Messenger about my status. After allaying people’s fears, I started using the power of the Internet to attempt to figure out who had made it and who had not. It was tough finding out more information. Then things got a bit weird as we all wanted to read what gaming sites were writing about the situation. The layoffs were reported across nearly all the major gaming sites and in quick fashion, given we hadn’t been out of the studio for even half an hour yet.
For the next three hours we basically spent the time having a few drinks, eating, talking and making random calls to get a better idea of who had made it and who had not. In the end, we still didn’t figure out exactly who got the axe and who didn’t. As you can guess, it was a very unpleasant day overall. Several of the people that got let go had become good friends of mine. Some I have known for going on three years now. In a few cases, those who got laid off had significant others laid off as well in the same week or previous week. I will find it quite difficult not seeing some of my friends at work on a daily basis.
As I made my way home, I was able to contact a friend that was part of the unfortunate group. He told me that the severance package he received was quite generous so that was good to hear. He also said that he felt no ill will towards EA which is only his own personal feeling but it hopefully shows me that EA was as professional and polite as they could be in handling the situation. Still, it sucks. Also, I was informed that where possible, people were given opportunities to find employment on other EA teams.
If I could be completely selfish for a moment, today’s events have a significant impact on whether or not I complete the deal for my apartment. Tomorrow, Friday, is the absolute point of no return for the transaction. I either go ahead tomorrow and drop all subjects and give my realtor 5% of the purchase price or I walk away from this completely. I’m going to have a brutally honest sit-down meeting with my manager tomorrow to get some clear indication of what’s going on with my job. Only then can I decide what to do.
Despite all the real estate stuff I need to do the in next 24 hours, the whole day has left me exhausted. I just want to space out for the rest of the evening and go to bed early. To everyone who lost their jobs today, I hope all of you bounce back soon and better than ever. I will pour some out for you tomorrow at beer and cake. You are all in my thoughts.