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EA shutting down Playfish games

Publisher pulling plug on division's last remaining Facebook titles; SimCity Social, The Sims Social, Pet Society, more closing by mid-June

Electronic Arts acquired Playfish for $300 million in late 2009. This weekend, the publisher revealed plans to shut down all remaining Playfish games.

In a series of Playfish forum posts, an EA community manager has announced that SimCity Social, The Sims Social, and Pet Society will all be shutting down on June 14. Those will be preceded by the closures of Madden NFL Superstars 11 & 12 and NHL Superstars, both of which will end on May 14. Those are the last remaining active Playfish games, but EA will retain a Facebook presence with games like Bejeweled Blitz.

"We know that you may be disappointed by this," the SimCity Social announcement reads. "Retiring games is never easy, we hope you've enjoyed playing SimCity Social as much as we enjoyed making it. Thank you to all of our passionate and dedicated players for supporting SimCity Social. We hope to see you in some of our other titles on Facebook and other platforms."

All of the shuttered games received essentially the same post, with text changes to reflect the name of the game, the date of closure, and the in-game currency. Each posting says EA is shutting down the game in question so it can "reallocate development resources" to other titles. As for in-game currency and Playfish cash cards, EA is telling players to spend them before the games are retired. The cash cards will seemingly have no use after June 14, as players will have to talk to EA customer service about any unredeemed cards after that date.

Though all of the games are shutting down alongside one another, they have enjoyed widely varying lifespans. SimCity Social enjoyed the briefest tenure, having launched just last year. On the other hand, Pet Society launched in 2008, and was one of the company's biggest hits heading into the EA acquisition.

The EA acquisition was structured to pay out $275 million in cash, $25 million in equity for key employee retention, and up to $100 million in additional payments if performance targets were met by the end of 2011. Playfish met enough of those performance targets to earn $50 million out of that possible $100 million.

UPDATE: Electronic Arts released a statement about the closures, saying, "After millions of people initially logged in to play these games, the number of players and amount of activity has fallen off. For people who have seen other recent shutdowns of social games, perhaps this is not surprising."

It went on to note that it will primarily offer Facebook games now through its PopCap brand. While it didn't give details, EA's statement did say that players of the shuttered games would be made a special offer to encourage them to try a PopCap title.

CORRECTION: This article originally referred to The Simpsons: Tapped Out as a Facebook game when it is actually a mobile game. We regret the error.

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Latest comments (29)

Gareth Eckley Commercial Analyst 8 years ago
Response to this has been rather negative.

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Private Industry 8 years ago
Whats the point on spending the currency now if whatever you buy wont be accessible anymore in June?
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David Serrano Freelancer 8 years ago
EA may single handedly force the courts to set a precedence for consumer rights as applied to virtual goods.
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Show all comments (29)
Jason Pullara Podcaster 8 years ago
Suck it, Bruce.
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Mark Faulkner Game Manager, Market Spring Pad Ltd8 years ago
I'm amazed that the games are being shut down. Ceasing active development; fair enough, but surely the games have enough players to cover maintenance and server costs?
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
EA acquiring a company and then closing down their games? Realllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllly? I would never have expected this to happen after they shuttered so many core game studios in the past. I am, like, so shocked.

Sarcasm aside, this just antagonises the casual gamer group that EA were until recently talking about courting so effectively.
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Spot on, Mark. I get that they dont want to carry on investing, but surely the ongoing maintenance costs are less than the revenues they are earning, or has it really got that bad, that none of those games can support the cost of the servers and maintenance people?
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
EA were struggling to really make a success of social and as more and more people come to realise, it goes way beyond having 'lots of users' on your game...
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship8 years ago
These decisions are never as simple as measuring cost versus revenue; it's also the opportunity cost, or 'cost of capital', if you like. EA clearly feel that they could generate a larger return on the investment elsewhere.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 15th April 2013 5:15pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
This just isn't EA's year.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus8 years ago
How many times to players have to be told this? When you dump money into these games, it goes into a vacumn. You will never see it again, and once you're no longer convenient, they will dump you. That's what happened here; all of those players, their money just went poof. Disappeared. I can play Super Mario Bros. until the day I die. These people have nothing. Nothing.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
This is why online games suck, the minute the company goes south so do all the games and the money you spent on them. This is why I support any format that allows you to actually own the game. Paying for games that exist on someone elses survers really isnt the way for me. I still enjoy many games from the NES, SNES, PS1 and PS2 era. I can go back to them when I want. But not a game that exists on a server or the cloud. One the service that hosts the game goes south, you cant play it anymore.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
And so begins the next crash... at least on the F2P side. Once you lose to people who won't pay to even keep those games profitable and the ones who DO pay (a LOT of money, mind you) get the shaft and that "Thanks For Paying, er PLAYING!" note when the servers go black, well... you can't do anything once the rest of the payment schemes have dried up. I said this when the model hit the "gambling is cool!' stage - that's where you lose those who don't want to go that route, especially if they have children.

Mr Bowen, I'll be joining you in the Rose Garden Arcade for some good old Gauntlet. Co-Op and in person, as that's the way is should be played...
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus8 years ago
@Greg - I call Valkyrie!
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
This is EA shooting themselves in the foot with a howitzer.
Social gaming like this is a service, not a product. So the whole business model is different and requires different attitudes and skills.
Each game is a community that has to be properly engaged with and managed. The community put huge emotional and financial investment into their game, which means that the publisher has a moral as well as a commercial responsibility. They just cannot behave with a cavalier attitude.
The wonderful thing about games like this is that they can and should evolve over time to reflect the wants, needs and demands of their community. This is what metrics are for. So any cessation of a game should either be from the publishers failings and the subsequent defection of the community or from being stuck on a burning platform. Is Facebook a burning platform? If not then what went wrong here?
Monetisation in FTP is an art that has exploded on our industry from nowhere. So unsurprisingly most people are getting it wrong. There needs to be a balance between publisher greed and giving the community value. But at the same time business models must work in order to sustain the publisher. It can be done and it can be done well, as World of Tanks so eminently proves. But the reality is that the vast majority of us right now are on very steep learning curves. And even the mighty of our industry, like EA, obviously still don't get it. But they are not the only ones, most traditional boxed product publishers are failing to make the intellectual shift to keep up with where their customers have gone.

When Kristian Segerstråle sold Playfish he said that it was a reverse takeover of EA. And so it should have been. It was an opportunity to re-engineer EA to keep up with the market. But very obviously the whole project failed. No wonder that both Kristian and John Riccitiello both recently left the company.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
Whilst I don't blame EA for trying, surely it's not just me that thinks the whole "EA Social" thing was deemed to fail from day one? They've twice been voted worst company in America. That might seem a bit harsh given what's happening in the world but those voters are the customers in question, so it doesn't matter their reasoning.

Even Hitler made a holiday park. Strength through joy!
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Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital8 years ago
Did I just hear a bubble burst?
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Matthew Hill Head of Recruitment, Specialmove8 years ago
I'd be very keen to understand the reasons for this decision - clearly there is a business case but it remains foggy at least.

That aside fingers crossed that this doesn't affect too many peoples jobs - I fear cuts could be heavy, unless of course people are moved to new projects.
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Mary Hilton Community Manager, Reclaim Your Game8 years ago
They milked the cash cow for all it was worth, and this is what happens when it ceases giving enough milk.

A classic case of "Pump and dump" by EA. They're notorious for acquiring labels, draining them of all profit for as long as they can, and then closing down the games. How many times does a player have to be told not to play this type of scam? Why are they always surprised when it happens?

It's EA's classic MO, and you can foretell the future of any other 'online' games they have right now: Sim City, anyone?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mary Hilton on 16th April 2013 11:48am

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Has anyone heard what is happening to the staff at Playfish?
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Well, I hope the Playfish folks can team up with an indie site or something so they can still make games, but focus on a smarter business model. It seems that the whole indie scene has pockets that haven't been corrupted by corporate greed and vampirism... but that's probably going to be a bubble in itself once everyone tries to "out-indie" each other and it turns into an ego-fest.

Hopefully, they get something decent in the way of a severance package, but I don't know what sort of job security they had in the first place..
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Adrian Herber8 years ago
I think this will be a blow to the entire social F2P scene, as casual gamers must get burned pretty bad by a game they are still playing (or even paying for) getting shut down. I'd wager that a large number of people this happens to will ditch social games entirely as they realize it will happen to any other game they get into as well.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 8 years ago
These decisions are never as simple as measuring cost versus revenue; it's also the opportunity cost, or 'cost of capital', if you like. EA clearly feel that they could generate a larger return on the investment elsewhere.
Yes, but are they counting the cost of the hit to their reputation, and that of the industry in general, in the appropriate place in this ledger? EA's long-term profitability is not going to be enhanced by they or the industry being up there with used car and timeshare salesmen in consumers' minds.
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Nick Parker Consultant 8 years ago
Light the blue touch paper and retire....I hope news of this (and recent Zynga games retirements) doesn't scare gamers off from casual/social/mobile. Social network games seem the most threatened but we must consider geographical preferences which may sustain sales on a global basis.

Any games developer would kill for the current traffic on The Sims Social (500k DAUs) and even Pet Society (100k DAUs) but for EA, business is business and it has set the floor for its own ROI which these two titles must be falling through.
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Thomas Rössig Games & Business Analyst, KaiserGames GmbH8 years ago
I see this move as damaging for the whole industry, one comment on the official EA forum sums it up quite well:

"I know it's only a game but I am disappointed in EA. Guess my gaming days are numbered. Knowing that the maker can pull the plug at any time, I'm not encouraged to "try something new". What? Try something new so you can turn that game off in six months too? No thanks."

If any game may be shut down anytime, how can any player trust the games enough to spend actual money?

Any first semester business student learns that acquiring new customers is 5 times more expensive than keeping current ones...
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More importantly, is this the bubble burst for social/mobile and F2P scene. If so, what is the next evolution to emerge.
The gaming landscape is currently littered with bodies and fallen detritus of the fallen admist the everychanging daily landscape - its difficult to see if there will be patches of stability with the background of global economic reform and global political tensions
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up8 years ago
Good luck to the guys and girls who lost their jobs, I'm sure their skills will be of benefit to console, pc and mobile developers looking to adapt.

On facebook, you just need to log in to see how much less its being used by people in the developed countries these days. Whilst I occasionally still log in with ad blocker running on a PC, I've totally ditched the mobile app due to the sheer amount of junk and spam. I'm not sure how you keep monetising what might otherwise be a decent game, on a mediocre platform with an ever increasing amount of spam. There's only so many amputee elephants one can take.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
I can see this getting a lot busier as the Playfish folk move on:
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Gjorevski Saso Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Closing down those nice fun kids games is not a solution i think.Sometimes you can't think only for moneymaking,it is not right.
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