Activision Blizzard Management are Scum: Abuse People, Promise Better, Then Lay off Staff (Update: Statement from Activision)
Update (6th December): Following this piece, an Activision representative has reached out to give a statement on the recent layoffs that instigated this piece, stating:
Activision Publishing is growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources. We are converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months. Unfortunately, as part of this change, we also have notified 20 temporary workers across studios that their contracts would not be extended.
This is a meandering, vitriolic, opinion piece. It's not objective at all. News of new layoffs is at the end. For clarity: I do not represent the opinions of all Wccftech (the site). I'm far blunter.
Quick round-up of why I'm right about this just from news in the previous three years:
- Blizzard defended the authoritarian Chinese government actions in Hong Kong over freedom of speech when they suspended Blitzchung and refused to give him his reward pay. Under massive outcry, they halved the suspension and paid him his winnings but still refused to apologise later, only giving feeble excuses.
- Activision Blizzard laid off est 800 people in February 2019, despite having record financial performances in the previous twelve months.
- The company attempted to lay off 133 people in 2019 and failed (French law). Activision Blizzard denied they would attempt to close this office after an agreement led to 134 staff departing with higher compensation packages. In 2020, they went ahead and tried to shut this office during the pandemic, stating they aren't core staff.
Side note: I questioned this "non-core" line (one of the few that did), saying that localisation, customer support, and so on are core. Following this, the company would always point out that localisation and customer support weren't part of "non-core" layoffs.
- Activision Blizzard was making more money than ever before at the height of the pandemic, and further layoffs occurred for "growth opportunities" only two weeks after they stated they needed 2000 more staff. I made it clear that these were patching up gaps from layoffs, offering rock-bottom wages, and that more would come.
Ironically, in fitting with the recent news, I mention the inevitable fate of Raven Software, the developer working on a game that made almost $2bn in 2020 alone and facing layoffs now, AFTER the company had staff relocate.
- Early 2021, Activision Blizzard laid off even more staff - giving them a whopping $200 Battle.net voucher - while Bobby Kotick was due a $200m bonus.
- Bobby Kotick agreed to cut his base salary and annual bonus by 50% in a feeble attempt to appease. In addition to this, the $200m stock-related bonus was later reduced to a paltry $155m.
- The lawsuit began. Once revealed, the response led to more recriminations. An internal company-wide email was written by Bobby Kotick but sent from Fran Townsend, with Kotick having her take the blame. He also called the email "tone deaf", attacking her.
- Evidence or allegations of discrimination of all kinds, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape, amongst other violations such as intimidation and union-busting, have come to light. A full SEC investigation began following this.
- Bobby Kotick (ever the liar and subhuman piece of shit that he is) denied knowing anything occurred within the company. It was reported that he had full knowledge of misconduct, ignored HR's recommendation to let a harasser go, covered up a lawsuit settlement from a female employee who was raped twice, and threatened to have his former assistant killed.
One response from Activision, in the past, stated:
We are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.
All of this leads us to the recent news. I read this last night just before I was going to sleep. Long story short: Activision Blizzard is laying off more employees. These are working on one of their most profitable titles, forcing even more pressure and unhealthy workloads on the remaining staff. The company had staff relocate for the role, promising contracts, pay-rises, and more. See the tweets that revealed this here:
I am gutted right now. My friends in QA at Raven were promised, for months, that Activision was working towards a pay restructure to increase their wages.
Today, one by one, valuable members of the team were called into meetings and told they were being let go.
— Austin O'Brien (@eyyohbee) December 3, 2021
Why are they doing this? There is no valid reason. They are lying unless they explicitly say, "we want less staff to increase the profit margins, giving us bigger bonuses". That's the truth of the matter. That, or tied to the earlier quote from Activision Blizzard, they believe the only way they can have the best workplace is by having no staff members, as the management are too morally bankrupt to run a decent workplace.
Naturally, this comes after a recent promise from the company to improve the workplace and give staff better pay. It's needed because some within Activision Blizzard can't even afford to use the staff canteen or eat meals some days. A tweet from a former employee also highlights a different tactic Activision Blizzard is using to pretend to meet their pledge of higher wages - simply not having those staff on the books.
Bobby is also having all contractors move to one agency (Volt) which, I was contracted through during my time at Activision and Treyarch. It wasn’t great.
— Jessica Gonzalez 💙 #FireBobbyKotick (@BlizzJess) December 4, 2021
Raven and Activision Blizzard staff have tweeted in support of those being released. According to one person, these have been undergoing years upon years of crunch. After having relocated at their expense, these people are jobless as of January 28th, putting them at risk of poverty and homelessness (as it would be for anybody who had lost their job).
To top this all off, Jason Schreier has been discussing with team members, and many of them are left in a state of limbo, not knowing if their jobs are safe or not. The reality is that their jobs aren't secure because no matter how much profit Activision Blizzard make, it will never be enough. They will kill (literally or metaphorically) anybody they can to squeeze that extra cent.
My commiserations go to anybody working at Activision Blizzard. That company is irredeemable under current management. I hope that the people who work there find new employment and the company burns to the ground. I'm only one person, but my now nine-year financial boycott will continue, and I can only hope others will join in (I still review games as objectively as possible, that's my job).