EA’s Battlefield 2042 is a massively-multiplayer action game that starts its seventh season of content next month. (Electronic Arts Image)

A new wave of layoffs at video game mega-studio Electronic Arts has multiple impacts on the Pacific Northwest gaming industry, including the end of development on a Star Wars video game and the effective closure of a developer based in Seattle.

Electronic Arts (EA), based in Redwood City, Calif., is one of the largest independent game publishers in the modern industry, owing to the strength of franchises like Battlefield, Apex Legends, last year’s Dead Space remake, and its annually-released football simulator Madden.

In addition to affiliates around the world, EA started new investments in the Seattle area in the last few years. It opened Ridgeline Games in Seattle in 2021 under the leadership of Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto, in order to work on the Battlefield franchise. In 2023, EA announced the foundation of Cliffhanger Games in Seattle in 2023, which is working on a licensed video game that features the Marvel superhero Black Panther.

On Feb. 28, EA CEO Andrew Wilson announced that the company would reorganize its development efforts and lay off 5% of its overall workforce, due to what Wilson calls an “accelerating industry transformation.” Analysts expect that roughly 670 employees worldwide will lose their jobs in the process.

This came five days after news that EA had instituted layoffs at two studios, after the decision to sunset two of its mobile games.

Wilson didn’t say anything about the precise impacts of the Feb. 28 reorganization on EA’s current and upcoming projects, which created a flurry of rumors on social media. Many of these were subsequently addressed by a follow-up post by Laura Miele, EA’s president of entertainment and technology.

EA has officially halted work on an unnamed Star Wars game that was in development at Respawn Entertainment’s Vancouver, B.C., facility. The game in question was reportedly going to be a first-person shooter, but no other details were ever released to the public.

This may seem like a strange move from the outside, but EA has historically had a hard time with making Star Wars games. Last year’s Jedi: Survivor notwithstanding, EA has started and then stopped development on more Star Wars titles in the last five years than it’s actually released. It also lost the exclusivity rights to Star Wars in 2021, following Disney’s decision to reopen Lucasfilm Games.

Cliffhanger Games in Seattle is reportedly unaffected. However, Miele confirmed that EA would be “winding down Ridgeline as a standalone studio.” An unspecified number of team members at Ridgeline will be moved to Ripple Effect in Los Angeles, where they’ll continue to work on a future game in the Battlefield series.

This followed the Feb. 27 news that Marcus Lehto had left Ridgeline and EA, which Lehto confirmed via X (formerly Twitter) was his own decision.

EA’s two waves of layoffs in February are the latest in a series of dismissals, reorganizations, and closures that have eliminated thousands of games industry jobs over the course of the last 14 months. According to a running total maintained by Kotaku’s Zack Zweizen and Kenneth Shepard, at least 8,177 employees at game developers and related businesses such as Discord, Unity, and Twitch have been laid off in 2024.

The layoffs are generally blamed on a number of factors, including the rising costs of mainstream “AAA” games development; a market correction following the post-pandemic gaming boom in 2020-2021; dramatically slowed VC investment in 2023; persistent industry-wide labor issues that have been a problem for years; and video games in general hitting a saturation point, where there are more titles being released than the audience can keep up with.

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