Kesmai Goes Bye-Bye

Electronic Arts’ on-line gaming division,, has laid off a third of their employees, including nearly everybody here in Charlottesville. Electronic Arts purchased Kesmai a few years ago and ramped things up quickly, gobbling up office space and tech employees left and right. But in the past year or so, fear of layoffs have been looming large, and now it’s finally happened. Good luck, Kesmaites. Reuters has the story.

10 Responses to “Kesmai Goes Bye-Bye”

  • This is very sad indeed, but not much of a suprise. I just hope all the Kesmites are able to move on to bigger and better things.

  • I think what makes this especially frustrating is that these folks really were trail-blazers for local geeks. They did their own thing on their own terms, and became the employment mecca for me and most everybody that I knew. When they sold out to, that seemed like just yet another success. But that connection that could bring them so high up has now dragged them down. The end of Kesmai didn’t result from any lack of success on the part of the corporation: by all accounts, they’ve turned out quality games for many years. They lost out for reasons beyond their control.

    I think that just hits a little close to home for a lot of us, anybody working in tech locally knows that their job is at risk thanks to the economic environment. Not because their code is lacking, their design is flawed, or their systems are insecure, but for more abstract, less logical reasons. And that’s scary.

    None of us fretted when Value America went under. They were obviously worthless, without any sort of a hacker ethic. Boxer Jam definitely had a corporate air about them (which is a good thing, IMHO), and was not led by geeks, at least not that I was aware of. But that was a bit of a wake-up call.

    But Kesmai’s demise? That makes all of this stuff real. This proves that no matter how good the product is, no matter how hard-working that the team is, your business can always be cut off and your job can always disappear. That might be obvious to the rest of the world, but it’s news to most of us young geeks in C’ville. It’s too bad we had to learn that lesson.

  • “None of us fretted when Value America went under. They were obviously worthless, without any sort of a hacker ethic.”

    I was worthless. I guess since I don’t write or play games I’m pretty lame- Thanks.

  • I was worthless. I guess since I don’t write or play games I’m pretty lame- Thanks.

    You miss both of my points:

    1. From the basic hacker perspective, yes, any tech employee that doesn’t know tech is worthless. This is obviously inaccurate from a bigger picture, but that’s the perspective none the less.

    2. Don’t confuse yourself with your former employer. Value America was, quite literally, worthless: they were without value, as their shareholders discovered. That’s why it no longer exists. Nobody’s said (that I know of) that the employees of VA were without value, and you and I certainly know that’s not the case.

  • I had applied for a job there, and was on track to be hired, when they hit the first round of lay-offs. After that, I told their HR that I couldn’t work somewhere without job security… I have a wife and kids. Now I’m thankful that I made that decision.

    I really feel for the people that were laid off. I wish you all the best in getting new jobs and making it through this difficult time.

  • VA was indeed worthless. It was formed to swindle investors out of money. They never intended to be profitable. They hired people left and right with absolutly no regard for their level of skill. Even some top level executives had no idea that the entire plan was to IPO and cash out the investor’s money in the form of “executive compensation”.

    I would have to say that Kesmai had a monopoly on talent here in town. The few exceptions to that rule are working for a company I wont mention that is about to go under. This is a great opportunity for someone to snatch up a lot of talented people.

    Peter Gibbons: I don’t like my job and I don’t think I’ll go anymore.

    Joanna: You’re just not gonna go?

    Peter Gibbons: Yeah.

    Joanna: Won’t you get fired?

    Peter Gibbons: I don’t know. But I really don’t like it and, uh, I’m not gonna go.

    Joanna: So you’re gonna quit?

    Peter Gibbons: Uh-uh. Not really. I’m just gonna stop going.

    Joanna: When did you decide all that?

    Peter Gibbons: About an hour ago.

    Joanna: So you’re going to get another job?

    Peter Gibbons: I don’t think I’ll like another job.

    Joanna: Well what are you going to do about money? Bills?

    Peter Gibbons: You know I never really liked paying bills, I don’t think I’m going to do that either.

  • Wow, I worked there for almost 4 years- I didn’t know it was a scam!?! How could I have been so naive.

    Please, please don’t make comments like “VA was indeed worthless. It was formed to swindle investors out of money. They never intended to be profitable” unless you’ve actually been in the thick of it. There are a lot of people in this town that are chapped because they lost their over-paid gig at and still run around town bad mouthing it. There are others who enjoyed the ride, and actually saw the flaws and tried to correct them- to no avail. You are not totally wrong though, there were dozens of employees in all levels of the company that had no business being there.

  • I was not “in the thick of it”. I didn’t invest in it, and I never worked there.

    However, I am quoting their CFO as best as my memory will allow, who explained this to me after the fact. He quit the moment he realized what was going on. Just because you didn’t know what was happening, doesn’t mean what I’m saying is not true.

  • I did not work there, though I was heavily recruited. Their business model just didn’t pass the smell test for me, nor did the questionable business pedigree fo their exhalted founder, so I passed, and I’m grateful that I did.

    I know many people for whom the smell wasn’t a problem, and at least two of them are still awaiting final commission payments that they know will never come. In fact, while the company was telling them the checks were forthcoming, the remaining executives were still cashing in with large payments to stay. IMHO, the management of VA was, at best, ethically challenged.

    I find it extremely disconcerting to drive past Craig Winn’s gated county “estate” on Woodlands Road twice each day. That guy is a scam artist of the highest order, and one can only hope that the investor lawsuits pending do indeed clean his sorry ass out and reault in a sheriff’s sale of that property. Nothing I can think of would be more appropriate.

    As for the former VA employees, I found many (though definitely not all) of them to be arrogant and smug, and many of them looked down on “local yokels” who didn’t know what a good thing they were missing. Later it became pretty obvious that they were only repeating the corporate mantra. The had become so convinced that they were on a gravy train, and for most ofthem the resulting truth must have come as quite a shock.

    On the bright side, VA left behind lots of well-wired office space still available at a decent price, so there’s at least a silver lining!

  • You say that VA’s CFO “quit the moment he realized what was going on”? My God, if it took Dean Johnson nearly two years (i.e., the length of time Dean was at VA) to figure out that Craig was a crook and VA was a scam, then he’s an idiot.

    For the record, I don’t think Dean’s an idiot–nor a saint. He stuck around long enough to make sure that he made his little pot of money, just like the other bigwigs. He appeared to have more moral grounding than any of the other executives, but he kept his mouth firmly shut about most of the stupidity and abuses that he witnessed. I think he tried to make it up, cosmically, when he started his own company,, which he tried to run as a decent man.

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