Big Fish Games is cutting about 15 percent of its workforce, including several key executives, according to an internal memo to employees obtained by GeekWire.
The 16-year-old company, one of the icons of the Seattle region’s gaming industry, will focus solely on casino and casual games going forward, Jeff Karp, who joined Big Fish Games in July as president and managing director, wrote in the memo. The move comes less than a year after Australia’s Aristocrat Technologies bought Big Fish for $990 million.
“We’re doing fewer things better, to be bigger,” Karp wrote in the memo. “We are sharpening our focus to only develop social casino and casual games — genres where we have earned the right to lead the market.” He said the moves should put Big Fish “on a path to unlock the full potential of the business and to become a top 10 game company in the world.”
Big Fish told GeekWire in July it had 735 employees companywide, including 630 in Seattle. Big Fish would not say how many positions are affected, though 15 percent of 735 people would pencil out to 110 jobs affected, and factoring in only the 630 people in Seattle equates to about 95 jobs affected. Social media chatter places the cuts at about 75 people.
The layoffs are “mainly centered around the premium business, SkyRocket studio and centralized teams,” Karp wrote.
Several executives are leaving the company as part of the layoffs, including Senior Vice President of Operations Omar Amin, Vice President of Engineering Steve Galic, Vice President of Studios Pat Wylie, Vice President of Licensing Paul Handelman and Vice President of Advertising Kathryn Ficarra.
“While our journey is not always an easy one — and today was certainly among the most difficult — I’m confident we are starting tomorrow in a position of strength and with a clear path forward to greater success,” Karp wrote.
Here’s how Karp described the company’s new strategy in the memo:
Going forward we’ll have four studios, and those studios will focus on quality content and making great games. Jina Heverley has decided to retire after 15 years with the company. Carey DiJulio, a 9-year veteran of Big Fish, who from 2012-2017 led the social casino business to over 400% growth, will be taking on the role of GM of Epic Venture Games.
Next, we’re creating a new publishing vertical that will help every game optimize its full potential through strong functional expertise in marketing, product management, operationalizing data and building brands.
Finally, we’re building a new cross-functional team that will drive prioritization and enable studios to make great games. This organization includes engineering, IT, Game Ops, BI, Operations and Insights. Katie Leggett has been promoted to VP, Operations, Insights & User Experience. Stephen Dunn has also been promoted to Senior Director of Developer Relations & Licensing.
With this new structure and leadership, we’ll further strengthen our pipeline—adding more creative talent into studios, with checks and balances provided by the publishing organization. I’m excited by this new structure, and as a leadership team, we’re committed to supporting our new leaders as they step into their roles.
Big Fish has changed hands twice in the last four years. In 2014 Big Fish was acquired by Churchill Downs Inc., operator of the famous Kentucky Derby racetrack, for $885 million and sold to Australia’s Aristocrat Technologies for $990 million last year.
For the first half of the year, Big Fish accounted for $249 million in bookings, up 12 percent from the same period a year ago, according to Aristocrat’s financial filings. Daily active users were 3.8 million, a 15 percent annual increase.
These changes represent one of the first big moves under Karp’s leadership. The former Electronic Arts and Zynga executive recently took the helm permanently after former CEO Paul Thelen left following the Aristocrat acquisition.
Big Fish just moved into a new headquarters office in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood earlier this summer.