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EA.com delivers pick slips to 250

OCT. 24 | EA.com, the long-struggling online game portal from Electronic Arts, will lay off one-third of its staff, about 250 people.

The move comes as EA tries to reach a previously stated goal of making its Internet operations profitable by 2003. According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, EA.com has incurred losses and charges of more than $200 million since it was founded in 1999.

According to an internal memo distributed to Electronic Arts employees from EA president and COO John Riccitello, the cutbacks were made because the company needs "to focus on the projects we believe have the greatest revenue potential."

Recently, the prospects for profits at EA.com took a hit when fewer than expected signed up for Majestic, the immersive online game where for $10 a month players receive a series of faxes, e-mails, phone calls and instant messages designed to help them unravel a corporate conspiracy. EA announced it would start developing a CD-ROM version of the game to bring it to a broader audience.

EA.com is an amalgam of free and subscription games. It also offers information about upcoming retail releases. Games on the site include Need for Speed Web Racing, Silent Death Online and Tank Hunter.

The next big game scheduled to launch on EA.com is the online version of The Sims next year. The game will allow players of the popular PC game to interact in a virtual neighborhood--online sites dedicated to The Sims are abundant--and EA executives have long said the game would make or break the company's online portal.

A spokesman with EA did not return calls seeking comment. The company will release its earnings Thursday.

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