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Electronic Arts cuts staff at Montreal studio

Visitors walk past an advertising placard of FIFA13 during the Gamescom 2012 fair in Cologne August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender
Visitors walk past an advertising placard of FIFA13 during the Gamescom 2012 fair in Cologne August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

By Malathi Nayak

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Videogame publisher Electronic Arts has begun laying off staff at its Montreal game studio in its latest round of jobs cuts, less than a month after former Chief Executive John Riccitiello abruptly resigned.

The company, known for its "FIFA" and "Sims" games, declined to divulge the number of jobs affected, or how many employees it has in Montreal, where it has developed console games like "Army of Two".

"EA is sharpening its focus to provide games for new platforms and mobile. In some cases, this involves reducing team sizes as we evolve into a more efficient organization," the Redwood City, California-based company said in a statement.

The Montreal studio, which includes a team that makes mobile games, is not closing, a spokesman said. He declined to say which teams within the studio had been affected by the job cuts.

The layoffs come shortly after John Riccitiello stepped down as CEO on March 30, after taking responsibility for missed operational targets.

Former CEO and Chairman Larry Probst has been appointed executive chairman as the company begins its search for the next CEO.

EA and rivals like Activision Blizzard Inc have seen growth fall off sharply as more gamers flock to free games on social networks or on mobile devices. The biggest traditional games publishers have tried to buy startups, reorganize existing studios and invest in mobile platforms but face intense competition from entrenched players like Rovio or Zynga Inc.

EA has been reorganizing studios to embrace new game platforms and adapt to consumer behavior. Last year, EA's PopCap unit, which makes social and mobile games, laid off 50 of about 380 staff members in its Seattle and Vancouver studios to focus on free-to-play social and mobile games.

The game publisher is also preparing to adopt the next-generation video game console technology in its games. Consumers are holding back from buying hardware and software as they wait for next-generation versions of Sony Corp's PlayStation and Microsoft Corp's Xbox, expected later this year.

Shares of EA edged higher in extended trading after closing at $17.63 on Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Richard Chang)

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