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Electronic Arts' PopCap Games Cuts Jobs, May Close Office

Electronic Arts Inc.’s PopCap Games, which makes titles played on Facebook Inc.’s website, fired about 10 percent of its staff as it moves to address a consumer shift toward mobile and free-to-play games.

The company eliminated 50 jobs in North America and also is evaluating shuttering its Dublin, Ireland, studio unless it can improve profitability, co-founder John Vechey said today in an blog post to almost 500 employees.

“In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the way people play and pay for games,” Vechey wrote. “Free-to-play, social and mobile games have exploded in popularity.”

PopCap, whose titles include “Bejeweled,” was acquired for $750 million last year to help Electronic Arts compete with Zynga Inc., the biggest producer of Facebook games. Since then, mobile platforms and so-called free-to-play sites have gained popularity with casual game players.

Zynga is grappling with similar issues. The company announced the departure of Chief Operating Officer John Schappert on Aug. 8, after he was stripped of some responsibilities in a reorganization aimed at reviving growth and making more money from mobile services.

PopCap, which also makes games played on computers, game consoles and mobile devices, expects to end the year with roughly the same number of employees as at the start, after it “hired aggressively this past year,” Vechey wrote in the blog.

San Francisco-based Zynga’s stock has dropped 68 percent this year while shares in Electronic Arts, based in Redwood City, California, have declined 34 percent to $13.56.

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