EA’s Firemonkeys Studio in Melbourne is expected to lay off up to two-thirds of its team as development for two major mobile racing titles shifts to India.
The studio, which focuses on mobile games, was providing live services for three titles: Real Racing 3, Need for Speed: No Limits and The Sims FreePlay. The first two titles were under the racing division, which will bear the brunt of the layoffs.
It is understood the Firemonkeys team was first informed of the changes during a studio update on April 26. EA executives flew into Melbourne to announce that Firemonkeys would become a “monotitle” studio, working purely on The Sims FreePlay. It was also announced that Studio GM, Joe Donoghue, would be made redundant during the meeting. His final day was April 28.
Kotaku Australia has learnt that up to two-thirds of the staff currently employed at Firemonkeys will be laid off or shifted to other projects. In-person meetings took place this week, letting staff know whether they would keep their jobs though the new structure has yet to be finalised.
As reported exclusively on Twitter on June 1, an EA spokesperson notes the company is “making some changes to the structure of Firemonkeys Studio, allowing teams there to focus on supporting live services for The Sims FreePlay.”
The mood within the studio is “fucking grim,” according to a Firemonkeys employee who wishes to remain anonymous.
Several projects in development have also been cancelled. One of the projects was Real Racing 4, which had previously been cancelled during a round of Firemonkeys layoffs in 2019 that affected some 40 to 50 staff. It was brought back to life, with an Early Access build less than two months away. It has been cancelled a second time, with sources suggesting EA stressed the decision is “purely monetary” and did not believe the game could meet specific targets.
In addition, development of The Sims Mobile, which remains under the “Games” list on EA’s Firemonkeys website, is no longer taking place at the studio. Development transitioned to Slingshot, an EA studio in Hyderabad, India, in 2021.
That same studio will now be taking over continuous development for Firemonkeys’ racing titles, Real Racing 3 and Need for Speed: No Limits. Staff who worked on the titles at Firemonkeys — some of which had worked on the games since inception and on previous iterations of the Real Racing series — will help transition the services to India, with layoffs expected to begin soon after completion.
Sources tell Kotaku Australia, the racing titles were “performing well” and that the cost of development was flagged as a reason for shifting the titles to India. Firemonkeys had received funding from VicScreen as part of the Victorian Screen Incentive program in 2021 to “work on live service updates comprising new themed content, limited time events, gameplay features and technical upgrades” across the two racing titles and The Sims FreePlay. The funding enabled the studio to hire new design, art and engineering talent, according to the VicScreen 2021/22 Annual Report.
The layoffs follow a business update shared by EA CEO Andrew Wilson in March, stating that the company would be “moving away from projects that do not contribute to our strategy … and restructuring some of our teams.” The update revealed that approximately 6% of the total workforce would be affected. At Firemonkeys, it appears that number will be much higher.
EA did not respond to additional requests for comment.
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