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Gamers Enraged As Activision Blizzard Dumps Hundreds

Gaming publisher Activision, owner of the huge Call of Duty and Candy Crush franchises, has been dicing with unpopularity for over a decade.

Things reached a new peak, though, in January. That was when Destiny developers Bungie flew the coop, ending their eight-year partnership. Word was that Activision let them go because Bungie retained a tight grip on the Destiny IP and wouldn’t let their bosses adopt it for a money-spinning mobile game. This week, as Activision announced substantial profits, it has doubled down on its ‘unlikable’ label, by announcing 800 redundancies, a significant number of which are hitting its subsidiary Blizzard. The developer much-loved for Overwatch, World of Warcraft and the Starcraft franchise has received a wave of sympathy from others in the industry even as the hammer falls.

 

 

At the time of writing, it was unclear where exactly the cuts were to be made. Blizzard employees are going to work unaware of whether they will be out of a job come Monday. This news seems especially cruel, coming on the heels of what sources report as Activision’s highest profits ever. $7.26 billion, an improvement on the $7.16 billion for 2017, was apparently underwhelming for the bigwigs at Activision HQ. The timing of Activision’s Chief Financial Officer Dennis Durkin returning in January to a $15 million ‘golden hello’ does not make for the best of optics.

 

Contemptuous rumblings around the gamersphere have given rise to renewed calls for unionization. Unlike staff in the film and television industries, those working for gaming companies have failed to establish a union. Penalties for attempting to organize labor in the industry can be steep, even resulting in devs losing their jobs. Technically in the US it is illegal to be fired for attempting to unionize, but in practice it’s very difficult to actually pin a company down on the reason for dismissal. After the recent and similarly shocking treatment of devs at Telltale, though, it seems like public opinion is turning in the favor of the worker as opposed to the executive.

 

 

 

Activision attributes its restructuring to the success of online games like Fortnite stealing its thunder, as well as the dwindling returns on microtransactions in games like Overwatch and Hearthstone. With this in mind it will also be making cuts at King, a subsidiary game development company specializing in mobile gaming that Activision acquired in 2016. Blizzard President J. Allen Brack circulated a memo vowing to offer each redundant employee a substantial severance package, with company benefits, additional pay, and assistance in picking up new work. However, given that some Blizzard employees have been working there ten or even fifteen years, it is cold comfort.

 

Gamers have not been shy about voicing their disgust with the actions of Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.

 

 

 

 

Will all this ire have any impact on the sales of the next Call of Duty game? Or do you think people will buy it anyway? Perhaps if Kotick values money over people, he should be reminded exactly which of the two he needs to keep happy in order to sell games.

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