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Plants vs. Zombies developer PopCap lays off 50 employees

Gaming firm PopCap has confirmed that it has laid off 50 employees from its Seattle office and is exploring options for its team in Dublin, Ireland.

"Today's news is something you expect periodically from a company in a fast-changing industry, but it sucks if you're one of the people losing his or her job. These people are our friends and we don't like doing this," John Vechey, PopCap co-founder, wrote in a blog post yesterday.

Vechey said PopCap is also "talking to our Dublin team" to see if they can come up with a "path to profitability" that does not include shutting down.

The cuts stem from a reorganisation in the PopCap studios prompted by the rapid shift to free-to-play, social, and mobile games.

"The change in consumer tastes requires us to reorganize our business and invest in new types of games on new platforms," Vechey wrote. "It's a completely different world from when we started."

There is an economic component, however. "To stay in business, we need to manage costs, improve efficiency and maintain a profit," Vechey wrote. "We've been able to invest in creative new games like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies because we had a high profit business. That business is challenged, and if we don't adapt, we won't be able to invest in new IP. That sounds harsh – but if we don't stay in business, no more plants, zombies, jewels, frogs or worms."

Last year, Electronic Arts acquired PopCap for $750 million (£475 million). Vechey wrote that he "wouldn't choose to be anywhere else right now" than with EA.

He denied rumours that EA was not allowing PopCap to operate independently. "The founders, CEO, and executives who were in charge of PopCap still are," he wrote. "The decision to reorganize was 100 percent made by us, with no pressure from EA."

Vechey said some of the people laid off by PopCap might be "retrained and reassigned to other jobs in the EA studios. If we didn't have EA behind us, the cuts would have been worse."

Next up for PopCap is an expansion into new markets like Japan and China, as well as new games, like the sequel to Plants vs. Zombies, which the studio announced earlier this week.

The news comes shortly after cloud gaming service OnLive sold its assets to a newly formed company in order to avoid bankruptcy, which resulted in layoffs for at least half its staff. For more, see OnLive Employee Talks of Sudden, Mass Layoffs.

The gaming community has offered up its help on Twitter. Robotoki head Robert Bowling tweeted that laid off PopCap devs should contact his company about work. "Dear displaced @PopCap devs - You're fun, creative, & talented. We're young, ambitious, & looking for talent. @Robotoki would love to talk!" he wrote. Casey Moore, an analyst at Zynga, also offered up some assistance, as did Adam Orth, creative director at Microsoft Studios, and gaming start-up a thinking ape.