Job hopes despite PopCap losses

There is a solid pipeline of upcoming IDA job announcements in the online gaming sector — raising hopes for the almost 100 people expected to lose their jobs at PopCap Games.

The co-founder of Seattle-based PopCap — which is behind popular titles such as Plants vs Zombies and Bejeweled — said on Tuesday that a reorganisation of the company would include “a reduction in force” in its North American operations and an “exploratory consultation” with its Dublin operation, “to evaluate” the future of its Irish-based business.

The online gaming sector is one of the modern technology industries on which the Government is pinning much of its employment growth hope, and it is targeting another 2,500 jobs coming from the sector by 2014.

“We expect there will be further announcements for positions in this sector in the coming months,” a spokesperson for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said yesterday.

Around 50 jobs are set to be lost in PopCap’s Seattle office as part of that “reduction in force”, and talks are “ongoing” here, even though it has been widely reported that the company will be pulling out of Ireland with the loss of 96 jobs.

A spokesperson for PopCap’s Irish operation said yesterday that the Dublin office has not shut, “as no decision has been made at this time”. But a further statement, confirming the closure, is anticipated.

In his Tuesday statement, PopCap co-founder, John Vechey said: “Today’s news is something you expect periodically from a company in a fast-changing industry, but it sucks if you’re one of the people losing his or her job. These people are our friends and we don’t like doing this.”

PopCap is an IDA Ireland client company and the agency said yesterday that it is in discussions with the company about “alternative employment projects for the future”.

While the IDA called the development “a response to changes in the gaming industry”, it also stated that “the sector continues to be in growth mode and up to 2,000 people are employed in the industry in Ireland across 30 companies”.

The PopCap reorganisation is less about emerging trends in the gaming industry and more down to parent company, Electronic Arts, consolidating a business it bought for $1.3bn (€1.05bn) last year.

On a global scale, the online gaming sector is set to be worth around $18bn by next year; is growing by approximately 12% per year; and comprises around two thirds of the total electronic games industry.

Irish games entrepreneur Dylan Collins told Newstalk yesterday that PopCap’s Irish job casualties should not be concerned about their future.

“There will be more companies, there will be more acquisitions and there will be more start-ups,” said Mr Collins. “This is an industry which is only going to grow. This is the best time to be making games.”


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