World of Warcraft players are staging in-game sit-down protests against Activision Blizzard, with players from across the world, spanning both factions, meeting up and sitting down on the stairs of Oribos in a great show of unity. You may have a few questions about why they're doing this in-game, why they're doing it at all (though the title gives that away), and this is something I'll cover very shortly.
Warning: Here be
dragons opinions, as well as some news.
First, I want to do the right thing and give image credit to the title image to Fence Macabre on Twitter - the guild which I will mention later. Second, I want to give some backstory on Activision Blizzard as a whole and how the recent sexual harassment lawsuit that brought this about is just in keeping with the way that company exists permanently.
Activision Blizzard, in my opinion, wildly mistreats its employees. This is something I've been saying more than enough in the past, from when I first discussed the closure of two offices with core staff (which the company declared to be non-development staff at the time). Activision Blizzard's PR directly contacted me following this piece, not happy over my calling them studios. It was also seemingly noted my strong insistence that localisation and support staff are, in my opinion, and using the power of logic, game development staff - this will come up.
Later news saw Activision Blizzard announce in its earnings that it would need to hire 2000 new staff to meet demand. It was pertinent to point out that this was after roughly eighteen months of mass layoffs, leading to the question "who left these rampant chimps in charge?" and more. Following this news, Activision Blizzard went on a hiring spree. Wait, no, sorry, they laid off even more people, though making a point to say that the layoffs would impact no localisation or customer support staff.
One needs to remember that all of this took place against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic that was already costing people's livelihoods. But surely the pandemic impacted games? Yes! Games did better than ever before, and Activision Blizzard posted record revenues year after year, making more money than ever. To reward staff for this exemplary feat, they were laid off and given a $200 gift card, while Bobby Kotick was awarded a $200 million cash bonus. A further announcement was then made with plans to lay off even more staff, making it clear that the layoffs would not impact localisation or customer support staff (strange how that kept coming about).
For the sake of balance, I should say that Bobby Kotick recently agreed to cut his base salary and bonus by 50%. This isn't the full story, though, as it came with a bonus of extra shares for Bobby.
I want to come back to the original of these links and bring up a point by the union protecting the French workers; this stated that Activision Blizzard "willingly deteriorated word conditions to a point where Psycho-social risks raised dangerously, forcing work inspection to intervene and the CSE to launch a 'droit d'alerte'."
So, how does this all link in? The long story short is that the lawsuit alleges that Activision Blizzard has fostered a “frat boy” culture in which female employees face discrimination when it comes to “compensation, assignment, promotion, [and] termination” and “constant sexual harassment". Furthermore, the lawsuit highlights issues with women being paid less and given fewer opportunities than men within the company. You can read all about the lawsuit and the response from Activision Blizzard here.
Understandably, people aren't happy with this and players of World of Warcraft have either cancelled their subscription or those locked into a pre-paid subscription have taken to protesting the actions of Activision Blizzard through a virtual sit-in at Oribos. Arranged by Fence Macabre, this sit-in has already raised over $8,500 for the not-for-profit Black Girls CODE.
Fence Macabre encourages all sub-locked players to join us on Thursday July 22nd at 9AM PST at the Idyllia Steps, Oribos.
Alliance Anchor: Vicaire-WyrmrestAccord
Horde Anchor: Loira-WyrmrestAccord
— Fence Macabre Caravan (@fencemacabre) July 22, 2021
As said, the people protesting in-game have already paid for their game time. Activision Blizzard has their money, so people not logging on doesn't damage the company in any way. People logging on to actively not play the game, but to do a well-publicised sit-in to boost information further, hurts the company even more so when people are doing this and will be later cancelling their subscriptions.
The news will spread. There will likely even be a spike in users as people log in to participate in the sit-in. However, if people do run out and not renew their subscriptions and others cancel theirs, there's little way to form any positive spin on this.
World of Warcraft has been a cash cow for over fifteen years, and even now, though subscriptions have been shrinking enough for Activision Blizzard to stop publishing numbers, it still has many people playing the game. Communities have grown around it, families have been formed (figuratively and literally), so, understandably, people who have invested so much time into this game are unhappy about the culture in which it has been and still is developed, and the treatment of staff within.
Is it an assumption that the lawsuit is correct and that Activision Blizzard's defence is wrong? Certainly. Sadly though, the industry seems to have a track record of this behaviour and covering it up. With the general attitude of Activision Blizzard to staff, I'm more inclined to believe in the state of California than the company. As for the players, I can only congratulate them, and it's very nice to see players stand up for the people who make the games.
News Source: Polygon