Game publisher shuts one unit in S'pore

PHOTO: Game publisher shuts one unit in S'pore

SINGAPORE - A global publisher of online games has shut a unit in Singapore as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise that could involve axing "hundreds" of staff worldwide.

It is believed that four staff members have lost their jobs here, although 60 or so in other units here remain employed.

California-based Electronic Arts (EA) - the world's third-largest game publisher - said the cuts are part of moves to make the company more relevant for a market being transformed by "new technologies and mobile" devices.

EA - known for its Mass Effect sci-fi action role-playing and Fifa football console games - did not state how many jobs will go, but some online media reports put the total number at "hundreds".

There have been layoffs in some locations, including Los Angeles and Montreal in Canada, and sources told The Straits Times the publishing arm here manned by four employees has been closed.

The local unit focused on selling EA game titles directly to retail stores in South-east Asia.

The closure follows EA's move to sell through channel partners in each market, say sources.

EA's other 60 employees in Singapore - who are mainly in human resources and finance roles - serve the Asia-Pacific region and are not affected.

The company's spokesman in the United States had not responded to queries from The Straits Times by press time.

EA is one of many traditional video-game makers trying to adapt to consumers who are increasingly playing free games on smartphones, tablets and online social networks.

"Traditional video console gaming is a mature industry," said Mr Clement Teo, a senior analyst for research firm Forrester Singapore.

EA needs to expand beyond its traditional base of customers, he said. "The way to widen its reach in the shortest time is to sell through new channel partners such as social networks."

Although EA also makes Facebook games - with titles such as Bejeweled, Solitaire and Plants vs Zombies soon to be released - social gaming is a low-margin, high-volume business, he added.

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