Garena lays off staff following post-COVID scenario

FIGHT Wallet Codes Garena Partnership
Photo credit: Garena. UPDATE: This piece has been updated following an official statement provided by Garena

Free Fire publisher Garena has laid off staff globally, according to two anonymous sources connected to the story. Esports Insider was also told additional details of what is happening in the company.

According to the sources, the downsizing movement started in February 2022. Garena began attempting to reform streaming platform BOOYAH! to change its focus. As a result, this shift resulted in BOOYAH! team members being laid off.

In June, Esports Insider contacted Garena to learn about the situation with BOOYAH!, to which the company responded: “BOOYAH!’s team is focused on delivering new community-focused features and services while evolving our strategies to adapt to new trends in the gaming industry. Some new features will aim to improve how we engage our audiences, and may have some impact on our partnerships with some streamers.”

BOOYAH! was not the only platform to be discontinued this year. In April 2022, Nimo TV faced the same fate. Another strike to Garena came when Free Fire was banned in India, one of the main mobile gaming markets in the world.

Garena also had to face challenges related to COVID-19. According to the sources, the company hired lots of employees during the pandemic to handle the significant increase of users and audience Free Fire had at that time. As the pandemic stabilised in 2022, particularly across Brazil — one of Garena’s main global markets for Free Fire — people stopped playing as much and Garena’s staff was bigger than necessary to handle users.

According to one source, COVID-19 was also harmful to SEA Group due to its effects in China, which could not stabilise the situation and suffered several lockdowns. This affected employees and other SEA Group’s businesses.

It is still unclear how many people were laid off by Garena. Former employees are under a very strict non-disclosure agreement and many do not feel comfortable speaking about it. One of the sources, though, projects Garena’s downsizing in Brazil at 25% of all employees.

Regarding the future of Free Fire esports, sources were contrasting. While one is not sure if it’s sustainable after the audience drop following the COVID-19 pandemic stabilisation, the other said that the esports operation, at least in Brazil, is probably the only sector safe from layoffs as their results have been extremely positive for Garena.

After reaching out about the situation, Garena provided Esports Insider with a statement regarding the layoffs: “In line with our previously stated focus on enhancing the long-term strength of our ecosystem, Garena is today making some adjustments to certain teams in order to optimise our global operations and better position us for opportunities ahead. 

“This will unfortunately impact a number of roles, and we are committed to supporting affected teammates through this process.” 

The story was first reported by Reuters last week.

Victor Frascarelli, Journalist
Victor Frascarelli is a Brazilian esports business journalist focused on the LATAM market. Previously at The Esports Observer for two years, Victor enjoys all things competitive, from League of Legends to football to chess to CS:GO.