Confirmed: EA Closes Pandemic Studios, Says Brand Will Live On

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Early this morning we broke the news that Electronic Arts planned to close down Pandemic Studios, laying off 200. Now we have confirmation.

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An internal Electronic Arts memo confirms that Pandemic Studios was shut down today with a "core IP team" being moved to Electronic Arts' Los Angeles office. Among those let go were the studio's top three employees: Andrew Goldman, formerly the studio's CEO; Josh Resnick, formerly the studios president; and Greg Borrud, vice president of product development

"I want to make it clear that the Pandemic brand and franchises will live on," Nick Earl, EA Games Label Senior Vice President, wrote in the memo. "In the months ahead, we will announce plans for new games based on Pandemic franchises.

"This type of change can be difficult. But the situation calls for us to act decisively, to take control of our destiny and to run a stronger, more focused development operation. That's how we will continue to make great games in our LA studios."

Earl said that the move was made to "improve our cost structure, ensure quality and build schedule integrity for this studio."

Electronic Arts confirmed that about 200 people were let go.

Pandemic was formed in 1998. Following on the success of Full Spectrum Warrior, Mercenaries and Star Wars: Battlefront, they were purchased in 2007 by Electronic Arts.

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After the purchase Pandemic released a succession of lacklustre sequels culminating in the cancellation of the costly Dark Knight game, which resulted in the closure of Pandemic's Brisbane studio.

These cuts appear to be part of EA's latest cost-cutting measures which includes the elimination of 1,500 jobs, cutting a dozen in-development games and closing "several facilities." According to multiple sources, those cutbacks include studios like Pandemic, Maxis and nearly the entire Command & Conquer team.

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We first heard of the Pandemic layoffs a week ago. The same sources told Kotaku that the team working on Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight was warned of its fate last week, with almost the entire team expected to be let go after the real-time strategy game ships some time in 2010.

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Also said to be affected heavily are Spore and former-Sims studio EA Maxis, social network gaming acquisition Rupture Studios, and Mercenaries and The Saboteur creators Pandemic Studios LA. Those development studios are said to be hit with substantial layoffs, according to a source, with remaining employees relocated to EA headquarters in Los Angeles and Redwood Shores.

EA is rumored to have already laid off staff at Tiburon, Mythic Entertainment and Black Box, reports which the company has yet to confirm.

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The closing of Pandemic Studios is the latest in a long line of acquisitions and then closures or "integrations" in the company's long history. Over the years EA has acquired and later closed or absorbed employees from Origin Systems, Bullfrog Productions, Black Box Games, Maxis, Westwood Studios and Pandemic's Brisbane, Australia and Los Angeles locations.

DISCUSSION

By
Nick Ha

This frustrates me and saddens me. I want to be able to hate EA for this. I do. Yet I find myself not being able to.

We're in a tough economy. People don't have a choice anymore; EA needs to cut costs in order to stay afloat. Either they take down one studio, or they let that studio take down everything else.

Furthermore, in recent years, what exactly has Pandemic actually produced that's worth playing? They stopped taking themselves seriously. Mercenaries 2 was a buggy and broken crapfest compared to the much more dramatic, much more compelling original, even despite improvements to the gameplay. Lord of the Rings Conquest wasn't as exciting and visceral as they had claimed it to be. They didn't get to work on a Battlefront 3 like everyone had hoped, so even if it wasn't their fault, it still hurt them a ton. And Destroy All Humans! had already been passed down to other development studios, and never even received that much marketing anyways, so the brand wasn't known well enough. Sure, Saboteur looks amazing, but maybe by now it's too late.

I will mourn the loss of Pandemic as anyone else who loved them will. I realize development studios are like closely knit families, and yes, Pandemic has produced some golden gems. But gaming is a business, and businesses need to make sacrifices in order to survive in this tough economy. I'm sure EA spent a very long time deliberating over this choice, and it was as hard for them to make it as it will be for us to accept it.

Besides, it will not stop me from mourning the loss of a worthy Mercenaries sequel.