Firemint, Iron Monkey Employees Lose Jobs, 10 Gone So Far [Updated]

A rumour hit us yesterday that Melbourne mobile developer Firemint was forced to let up to ten of its employees go, with redundancies made on Thursday and Friday of this week. We can now state that this is indeed fact, with several sources confirming the cuts.

We know of seven people who were let go, but the number may be as high as 10, according to those Kotaku Australia spoke to. It's believed the affected employees include a producer and several artists, but we're continuing to confirm these details.

As far as we know, no one in an upper management position was axed.

It's not clear at this stage what the motivation was for the cuts, though it's likely EA had a large say in how things went down, having owned the once-independent studio since May of last year. We won't get an official statement from EA or Firemint until Monday, but we've fired off emails to the relevant parties in an attempt to gather more information. In related news, EA very recently made a "small number" of people redundant at its Vancouver studio.

How did it come to this? Unfortunately, while Firemint's SPY mouse, released last year in August, managed to hit the top of the App Store charts and knock Angry Birds from its roost, it was unable to sustain the momentum and has since dropped out of the top 25 (and in many cases, top 100) in the critical markets of the US, UK and Europe. Meanwhile, Halfbrick's Jetpack Joyride, released around the same time, continues to hover in the lucrative top 25 / top 100 segments.

It's pure speculation on my part that SPY mouse was a contributing factor, but it's hard to argue its failure to stay high in the charts didn't raise eyebrows at EA.

It wasn't long ago that Visceral Melbourne, also owned by EA, was forced to shut down. It's unlikely the two events are related — Visceral was focused on triple-A, hardcore titles, while Firemint is aligned with EA's growing mobile focus.

The news hits close to home, as I worked for Firemint up until September of last year. Back then, things seemed cheerful, upbeat and positive — it's hard to imagine what's transpired in the last four or five months to warrant this sad news.

Firemint rose to fame in 2009 with its casual hit Flight Control on iPhone. The game's HD version for iPad claimed an Apple Design Award in 2010, along with Firemint's technical and hardcore-orientated Real Racing.

Update 4/2/2012 2:15PM: Firemint's community manager, Sam Mayo, has provided Kotaku Australia with the following statement:

We have not fired ten people, SPY mouse is a very successful product which we're continuing to support ... December was very very good for us — Real Racing 2 HD sat in the #1 position in the top selling charts during the lucrative week from Christmas to New Years.

If this is the case, it's great news, but our sources were very confident. We'll wait on an official statement from EA before signing off on this.

Update 4/2/2012 5:00PM: Another source, who asked not to be named, has provided Kotaku with more details, including that Iron Monkey, the studio behind the mobile version of Dead Space, was also hit:

  • Firemint has been profitable, but EA still made the decision to let people go.
  • The exact numbers are eight from Firemint and two from Iron Monkey. Both companies share the same studio on St Kilda Road.
  • Those let go included "programmers, artists, designers and producers".

Updated 9/2/2012 4:00PM: We have received an official statement from EA that neither confirms not denies the job cuts. Here is the comment we received from EA's marketing manager, Joshua White:

Cycles of expansion and contraction are a normal part of the game development process. When contractions do occur as a part of the game development process, we make every effort to help place any affected employees in other positions at EA. This is the natural ebb and flow of the gaming industry.

We take that this means there have been some job losses, although EA would not comment any further on the matter.

[Thanks to those who provided the tip]


Comments

    That's awful to hear. Seems like in 10 years there won't be an industry left anywhere, let alone Australia, given how bad things are going for most of the big players (ActiBlizz/Microsoft aside).

      The industry is not dieing, we make more money now than ever before. It is changing.

      Smaller studios focused on social and mobile games. Much less risk than spending 2-5 years and millions of dollars for a game that will probably flop as we just do not have the talent to produce quality AAA games. Team Bondi made a AAA game and it killed them. Half the time they struggled to find animators who would take the job.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, iOS and other mobile games are no silver bullet to successful game development, long term. You have to employ creative people with original ideas if you want to stand a chance in a creative industry. Nothing else will be successful, and not even that is a guarantee!

    I said this when Firemint was bought out by EA - it'll be the end of them. The big wigs will start letting people go left, right and centre just because an iOS game isn't selling enough to buy them a new Gold back scratcher.

    I don't understand Sam Mayo's comment... Were people fired or not? You may say not, but then where did Kotakus "confirmed sources" rumours even come from? Are people just making shit up and then that's enough to get confirmed by reputable journalists?

    Regardless, I knew this kind of stuff would happen. In the long term there is nothing good about your company being owned by a publisher.

      I worked at Firemint for eight months. Trust me when I say I'm very confident about my sources.

        Well we've got that update now.

          There's a big difference between firing and being made redundant, which is far more likely to be the case here. Mayo's comments may be true, in that regard, if a little bit sleight of words.

          Further they may have been contractors or something, somehow technically not Firemint employees, despite what we on the outside might think of them as.

            Add to that the number was 8 and not ten which he made sure to specify in his statement. (He would have said "We have not fired anyone" if no one had been made redundant or fired.)

              While both you and Adam are correct to say that, the author has his sources, to which these company actions are considered newsworthy. There would be nothing newsworthy of contracts expiring, and no matter how you spin it -redundancies are firings too.

              If this was all "Who cares? Just business as usual..." then why bother with making it news?

                Sounds like they just trimmed the fat - all developers do this every year or two.

                Because that's what news is all about. Making news out of anything you can get your hands on.

                  I was unaware Firemint had gotten so fat. 8 guys is a sizable chunk of workforce in a small developer like Firemint, it's not necessarily the one or two guys you fire every 6 months cause they're shit at their job.

                  I understand the media can be sensationalist, but you don't get these reports when one guy who knows a journalist calls up and says, "Guess what? I got fired today." But more like, "Hey they just laid me and like 7 other guys off at once man, that's not normal."

    IIRC wasn't SpyMouse free at some point

      Basically (as an insider who escaped the axe) here's what happened :

      - Ea has decided tou cut 10 % of workforce worldwide in a move to cheer up a bit the shareholders (and don't believe what they say when they boldly claim that SW old republic is a massive success).

      - Firemint and Iron Monkey had to cut a number of jobs to comply with that, despite being profitable- so basically, pay for other people mistakes, one big unhappy family.

      - Firemint and Iron Monkey are going to merge in one company, so expect more drama to unfold in the near future.

      - The companies will milk existing EA's IP and stop trying to develop original ones.

      EA at it again !

    Theres too many talented aussies making crap IOS games. It's almost like they are limited to Mobile Dev because there aren't enough jobs to make real games.

    make sure if you were fired to flag this in your linkedin profile so we can find and hire you!

      If I may ask, what sort of positions are you looking to fill, Ashley? Your website, assuming I'm looking at the right one, doesn't appear to be advertising any roles that are clearly suited to someone coming from games.

    While I can't say this is surprising, given how companies bought out by EA have fared in the past, I sympathise with those that were let go and offer my condolences, having been through this myself quite a few times. Australian game developers seem to have an amazing resilience to this kind of thing though so I'm hoping to see a few more studios spring up.

    why did they sell out to EA in the first place? they sell games online - worldwide using apple and androids market front. why did they sell to a publisher?! and with a track record of this behaviour.

      Greed, that's why they did it.

      They were doing fine before EA put the large sack of cash on the table.

      Now they will suffer at the hand of a company that does not give a sh#t.

      I feel sorry for the employees that got laid off, if indeed that is what has happened.

    Sad news :(

    It's quite normal for EA to let go 10-15% of all staff on a yearly cycle. It comes down from upper management, nothing the local studio heads can do about it except for say no and end up in a similar situation to Infinity Ward MW2 era.

    Thats sad to hear, sucks when game devs are let go no matter the circumstances :(

    Not playing it down or anything, but this seems to be everyday stuff for the industry in Melbourne. A project finishing means that employees have to worry about whether there's enough work for them to justify them keeping their jobs for the next few months.

    I feel terrible for these guys and everyone else who gets let go from local devs due to lack of work. It sucks a hell of a lot, and I hope these guys bounce back very soon (or move overseas to where the work is!).

    In a way, the head honchos of Firemint are to blame. They made the decision to sell out and give the power to a bigger company. They should have been more careful and not been so quick to jump at the dollar signs.

    All bullshit from EA, people have been fired and no, nothing has been done to place them anywhere else. And yes i'm one of the st kilda rd survivor.

    As a former games programmer turned finance programmer, believe me that this isn't just a games industry thing any more. The problem that killed us is hurting everyone else now (high $AUD). The business cycle is turning on pretty much every industry with lay-offs everywhere.

    Take a look at the business section of News.com or TheAge.com. Every day there is another company closing its doors or letting go hundreds of workers (Alcoa, Kell & Rigby, Toyota, Holden, ANZ, Westpac etc). Hold tight to your jobs employed people, it may keep getting uglier too.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now