Has a drop in subscriptions pushed BioWare Austin into reducing its head count?
During EA's 4Q fiscal 2012 earnings call weeks ago, EA rep John Riccitiello said (pdf) that Star Wars: The Old Republic, which launched in December 2011, was the most successful subscription-based MMO launch in history. It's now firmly established as the #2 MMO in the west and extremely strong on the operations level, he said.
But later Riccitiello admitted that The Old Republic had only 1.3 million subscribers by the end of April. That's a substantial drop in number compared to the 1.7 million subscribers reported in February.
Ken Barker, a senior vice president and chief accounting officer at EA, followed up by saying the sudden drop was due to "casual and trial players cycling out of the subscriber base, driving up the overall percentage of paying subscribers."
"The current number of active subscribers, 1.3 million, is very consistent with the original assumptions we made when we acquired BioWare in 2008," Barker told investors. "We expect this title will further expand our margins in fiscal 13 as we get the full year benefit of subscription revenue."
Now BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka and co-founder Greg Zeschuk are reporting that many BioWare Austin workers will be laid off thanks to "restructuring."
"Sadly, we are bidding farewell to some talented, passionate and exceptionally hard-working people who helped make SW:TOR a reality," they told the SW:TOR community in a recent blog. "Impacting people’s lives this way is always very hard, but we’re ensuring the affected people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect."
"We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today," they added. "There are many strong initiatives planned for cool new content and new features that we’re excited to tell you about in the upcoming weeks and months."
EA followed up with an announcement stating that some of the employees impacted by the BioWare Austin layoffs will be able to join other EA projects while the remainder will be forced to leave the company.
"These are very difficult decisions, but it allows us to focus our staff to maintain and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic," EA stated. "BioWare Austin remains a large and important part of BioWare and EA, working with other studios around the world to continue to deliver a high-quality service and exciting new content for Star Wars: The Old Republic."
BioWare and EA did not reveal the actual number of layoffs.