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Salt Lake City video game developer lays off workers, shifts focus

Published February 7, 2012 9:57 am

Eat Sleep Play • Makers of "Twisted Metal" veer from console games to work on mobile market.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Salt Lake City video game developer Eat Sleep Play laid off eight employees last week as it finishes its anticipated PlayStation 3 game, "Twisted Metal," and transitions from producing console titles to mobile games.

The Wednesday layoffs represent about 20 percent of the company. Eat Sleep Play now has 26 employees at its Salt Lake City headquarters.

Why the switch to making games for the iPhone and iPad?

"It's a platform that is in our pockets almost 24/7. It's kind of the size and types of games we're playing," said the company's co-founder, Scott Campbell. "You can certainly reach a lot more people. That's pretty exciting for us."

As for the types of mobile games Eat Sleep Play expects to make, Campbell said, "Hopefully it's our brand of mechanics-driven gaming brought to these devices."

Meanwhile, the company's other co-founder, David Jaffe, is expected to leave to also pursue casual games, Campbell said. Jaffe is well known in the gaming industry for his outspoken views and as the creator of the popular "God of War" game for the Sony PlayStation as well as the "Twisted Metal" franchise. Jaffe lives in San Diego and formed Eat Sleep Play with Campbell in 2007.

"He's excited to go into the casual space as well," Campbell said of Jaffe. "He's got some projects that he's excited about. So we're kind of going down two separate paths."

The layoffs and announcement of the company's new direction come on the eve of the company's release of its first triple-A game, the car-combat title "Twisted Metal." The game, the company's third, will be released for Sony PlayStation 3 on Feb. 14.

Its first title was a smaller downloadable title for the PlayStation Network called "Calling All Cars." The new "Twisted Metal," which is the 10th game in the series, originally started out as a smaller downloadable project but instead grew in size and ambition to become a full $60 retail game.

"That's what we set out to do four years ago. We didn't know we were going to do [a full game]," said the company's creative director, Kellan Hatch.

Eat Sleep Play shares a building with two other locally based game developers that already are producing mobile and Web browser-based games. Chair Entertainment produced the best-selling iPhone/iPad games "Infinity Blade" and "Infinity Blade 2," and Smart Bomb Interactive is the maker of "National Geographic Animal Jam," a free-to-play browser-based game.

A report from media analysts SNL Kagan stated that mobile gaming revenue was expected to reach more than $1.5 billion last year, nearly double that of 2010. Analysts there expect mobile gaming to reach $7.8 billion in the next decade.

Campbell said he's looking forward to the company's new focus, which now means it can work independently of major publishers and have more control over development.

"As you transition into more of the casual market, the team sizes are smaller. Everything's smaller — the budget's smaller, the development cycle is smaller," he said. "That's exciting to us, but also kind of scary."

vince@sltrib.com

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