Game still on despite industry difficulties
THE GOVERNMENT is standing behind its recently created games industry group, despite news that a major player in the Irish games sector may close down.
The Clustering Development Team, which had its first meeting last month, aims to drive growth and innovation in the games industry.
It is chaired by Paul Breslin, general manager EMEA at PopCap Games, which employs 96 people in Dublin. The firm said on Tuesday it was evaluating the future of its Irish operation in an “exploratory consultation”.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation backed Mr Breslin as head of the group and praised his experience in the industry.
“Mr Breslin was appointed as a highly regarded expert in the sector,” said a spokeswoman, adding that he would continue to serve as part of the development team.
Doubts over PopCap Ireland’s future came after the group announced a worldwide reorganisation.
PopCap, which was bought by EA last year, has already shed 50 jobs at its Seattle base.
In a blog post on its website, PopCap’s co-founder, John Vechey, explained the 12-year-old company’s move.
“We never imagined the games we’d make, the vast number of people who would play those games, or the success that followed,” he said.
“We also never imagined the challenges that we would face with markets, platforms and customers. Most importantly, we never imagined the hard decisions we’d have to make.
“In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play and pay for games. Free-to-play, social and mobile games have exploded in popularity.
“The change in consumer tastes requires us to reorganise our business and invest in new types of games on new platforms. It’s a completely different world from when we started.”
Mr Vechey said PopCap, which makes popular games, such as Bejeweled, was trying to see if it could find ways to improve profitability in Europe without having to close the Dublin base. It is understood that staff in Dublin were informed of the developments on Tuesday.
PopCap Ireland was not making any official comment yesterday, directing inquiries to the company’s blog post on the matter.
Fianna Fáil Senator Darragh O’Brien said it would be a worrying trend if PopCap closed its business here.
He called on State agencies to be proactive and review the industry to ensure that more companies were not facing similar situations.
IDA Ireland said it was already talking to the company on potential alternative employment projects. More than 2,000 people are directly employed in the games sector in Ireland at present.
That figure has increased five-fold since 2004, and the global games market was expected to increase in size from its current $59.3 billion (€47.4 billion) to $82.4 billion by 2015.
Richard Barnwell, chief executive of indie game studio Digit Game Studios, which was established earlier this year, described the PopCap development team as “well respected and talented”, and said if employees were affected by the reorganisation, they would find roles within the growing Irish industry. David Sweeney of industry group Games Ireland said: “These changes at PopCap, whilst undoubtedly a blow to their talented and productive Dublin team, seem to be part of a global restructuring.
“The ongoing growth of the Irish games industry means that any changes in Pearse Street should spin off some great new companies. So the considerable talent built up so far will not go to waste locally.”