Kabam exec calls EA layoffs "Darwinism at work"

Andrew Sheppard says publisher caught in disruption, likens it to brick-and-mortar busts like Borders and Blockbuster

Last month, Electronic Arts laid off a reported 1,000 employees in the latest attempt to turn the publisher's fortunes around. In a guest editorial on VentureBeat today, Kabam president Andrew Sheppard called it "industry Darwinism," a sign of a changing business leaving the old ways behind.

An ex-EA employee himself, Sheppard expressed his condolences to those affected.

"But you can't stop evolution," Sheppard said. "Console game companies are standing on the same ground as others that were disrupted before them. Borders was shuttered by Amazon, Blockbuster buried by Netflix, and Encyclopedia Britannica withered by Wikipedia. When consumers get something faster and cheaper via the Internet, disruption occurs, and the companies that don't evolve quickly inevitably decline."

Sheppard said there's a wave of disruption hitting the industry right now, one that favors free-to-play and mobile devices over boxed retail products and consoles.

"Consumers, of course, have the final say," Sheppard said. "They're voting with not only their pocketbooks but their bags as well. Free-to-play has taught consumers they don't need to shell out $60 for a game before they even try it. Free-to-play has changed how we pay for our entertainment. Mobile devices have changed how we play our games. Together, they're an unbeatable foe for the venerable console games industry."

Naturally, those are two areas Kabam focuses on. It operates 20 browser-based free-to-play titles, including Wartune and Kingdoms of Camelot. Additionally, it has more than a dozen offerings on iOS and Android devices, such as the multiplatform efforts Book of Heroes and The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. Last year, the firm brought in revenues of $180 million.

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Latest comments (14)

Chris Lewin Software Engineer, EA4 years ago
Mobile game dev thinks mobile is the future! News at 11!
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
Free-to-play has taught consumers they don't need to shell out $60 for a game before they even try it
Someone remind me again why publishers stopped producing demos to promote their $60 games?
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Steven Wemyss Senior QA Engineer, Avalanche Studios4 years ago
It was because Demo's of many games have been found to actually work against sales of your finished product as they will often mean impulse buyers will try it and then decide yay or nay rather than just buy the game. That said a good demo certainly helps improve sales but lets face it those are usually pretty few and far between.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games4 years ago
A good Demo of a good game always helps. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the games were at a quality level that a demo would not support the sale. SO in a way, publishers preferred to "swindle" the customer by using a franchise name rather than spend more to improve a game. (this is how even legendary franchises died! true story!) The success of mobile, is the revenge of that swindled customer!

I totally agree with Sheppard. 100% and Chris,
when i was starting my professional path, i had started a small studio in my home town introducing ... god forbid, the Internet! An exotic thing back in '95. People got interested and started looking into making a web page for their business. There was this local TV station owner who started losing business towards something he didn't understand, when one fine day he stormed into our office, started behaving like an a$$ towards me and my partner, while yelling at him:

"And you got that fkn whiz kid here who thinks Internet is the future!"

That is the guy you just reminded me of! ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 4th May 2013 1:30pm

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David Serrano Freelancer 4 years ago
But the EA layoffs don't represent evolution. Because there's still nothing to indicate EA executives have finally acknowledged the dire need for their company to fundamentally and radically change. So laying off non-executive level employees amounts to a tribe of neanderthals letting their sick and elderly die because they're losing the competition for food with homo sapiens. The sacrifice only delays the inevitable: extinction. If EA doesn't retain the type of proactive leadership needed to effectively compete against disruptive competitors and technology... and if the company is not restructured in a way to allow it to quickly adapt to disruptive competitors and technology, EA will not survive. Fewer mouths to feed is not the solution to their problem, radical top to bottom change is.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 4th May 2013 6:01pm

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Ive seen the future, its Oculus Rift.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 4 years ago
a good demo of a bad game, is there such a thing?
a bad demo of a great game, is there such a thing?
I think it works like this:
a demo of a bad game = no increase in sales
a demo of a good game = increased sales.
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It could be EA has such a high overhead cost, that the option of doing nothing or producing a mediocre title is a catastrophe. Optionally, it could still experiment with smaller titles with multiple small incubator teams (like special ops teams). And maybe choose some good range of winners in various IP and mobile, F2P, console, MMO divisions
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago
If a game demo sucks, its likely the actual product will as well. A demo of a good game will help sell the game. Demos of good games help sell games. I enjoyed Kingdoms of Amalur, Mass Effect 3, DMC and DOA5 demo's.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
Imagine a game like Bioshock: infinite. A demo for that would only have shown outdated gameplay mechanics and confused players with parts of the story, not giving them the full picture.
Instead, people who bought it are greeted with a complete game for $60 with outdated gameplay mechanics and a story that doesn't really gel until about half-way through. :p

I find it interesting that one of the deeper games of the past few years, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, had an 8 hour "demo" some months prior to release, in the form of a leaked beta meant for reviewers only. Anecdotally speaking, that did nothing but help sales, and assuage fears that Eidos were dumbing the IP down.

I don't think there is a perfect once-size-fits-all approach to releasing demos. But in the face of F2P, it seems bizarre to ignore the possibility of releasing a demo entirely; some cynical publishers might want to consider releasing demos for older games. Once pre-orders and first-week sales are out the way - with all the cash that goes with them - it would be a good way of enticing uncertain customers to part with their cash. Valve and some other publishers already do this, in a way, with the occasional Free Weekend on Steam for a game that's also on sale.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 6th May 2013 6:33pm

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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 4 years ago
Layoffs aren't Darwinism...

They're just a project ending.

This is entertainment. Entertainment is built on PROJECTS! You aren't making widgets here... You're making works of art. Works of art get finished. When they're finished, MOVE ON!

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 6th May 2013 11:56pm

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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd4 years ago
I played the demo for World's Deadliest Warrior, and immediately bought it. Best game ever!!! Second one lost it though.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games4 years ago
"But the EA layoffs don't represent evolution."
that exactly is the point. there is no evolution, or there is very slow evolution and as a result you need to scale down as entire departments become irrelevant. if the studios that closed down had evolved, and they were not one trick ponies, they would not be a liability!

yes there are good demos of bad games and bad demos of good games.
You never heard of demos which only show the more polished part and the rest of the game is really bad? Or, you never heard of early buggy demos slapped together hastily and the final polished game being awesome?

i.e. many people got diablo3 based on the more polished open beta excerpt, but later regretted that! ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 7th May 2013 2:51am

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Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham4 years ago
Did no one tell this guy that EA also laid off a load of social and mobile developers too? This isn't Darwinism, this is large corporations failing to understand the human consequences of what they do. Studios aren't just factories, to be used to pump out one IP until the cow is milked dry. They can easily adapt to work on new IPs or different types of games if you give them the chance.
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