The Seattle-based company has been around a long time as a game developer, with a focus on casual mobile and social casino games. Big Fish Games recently launched EverMerge in May, and it said its social casino business had “strong momentum.” Most game companies have been reporting stronger results as people play more while sheltering at home during the pandemic. So it’s not clear exactly what the challenges are that caused one of the largest layoffs in the game industry this year.
Jeff Karp, the former Big Fish Games president, left the company in July to become the head of mobile at Electronic Arts. One source mentioned this $155 million legal settlement, reached in May, as a reason for the layoffs. The lawsuit was related to allegations that social casino games played in the state of Washington amounted to illegal gambling.
In an email to employees, co-presidents Andrew Pedersen and Jason Willig said, “By streamlining the legacy evergreen catalog businesses and refactoring operations, Big Fish will increase investments to drive growth while improving underlying operating capabilities. These decisions, while difficult — and taken only after careful consideration — reinforce a commitment to players and the mission to become a truly great games company.”
They confirmed that 250 positions will be cut.
Pedersen and Willig added, “The scale that Big Fish developed over many years as a multiplatform publisher has made it difficult to successfully lead in mobile, which requires greater agility and different operating and creative capabilities. By pivoting how we operate and sharpening focus, we will gain increased flexibility to engage players more effectively today and invest more for the future. We are making these changes proactively from a position of financial strength. We will reduce certain costs, but saving money is not a primary driver behind the changes. Rather, our goal is to be a more effective and customer-centric organization.”
The company said it is moving to a “single studio model” under Pedersen’s leadership. The company will expand partnerships with external developers such as Neskin, Amber, HypGames, and Proteus.
For live operations and publishing, Big Fish Games plans to build a new business performance organization to accelerate analytical capabilities and increase the impact of live services across the portfolio. In addition, the company will consolidate studio, social, and performance marketing into a single growth team.
Big Fish Games said it will redirect more resources to efforts that directly benefit players.
The co-presidents said, “Developing a more flexible operating model is critical to support these efforts. This means an increasingly decentralized footprint, leveraging talent globally, expanding partnerships, and leaning into the great company we are a part of within digital, and the broader Aristocrat organization.”
Big Fish Games’ owner is Aristocrat, the social casino games and gambling firm.