Blizzard devs characterize layoffs as a ‘bloodbath’ as pro-unionization effort calls for Bobby Kotick’s resignation

    
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A day after Activision-Blizzard announced record earnings and began laying off a reported 800 people, we’re finally getting a clearer picture of the full impact on the company and its games.

A Kotaku report out this afternoon includes quotes from multiple former and current Blizzard employees, one of whom described the scene as a “bloodbath” with “a lot more cuts than [the devs] were expecting,” including large swathes of the esports, publishing, and support departments across multiple studios in multiple countries. At least two substudios – King’s San Francisco studio and King mobile studio Z2Live – have been basically wiped out.

On Twitter, the games industry unionization effort, Game Workers United, publicly called for the firing of Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, accusing him of “theft” for pulling nearly $30M in salary a year while laying off hundreds of employees.

One former employee, Jordan Mallory, has a particularly scathing piece up on Fanbyte describing some of Blizzard’s past predatory practices – for example, firing hundreds of people in 2012 and hiring them back as benefit-free contractors working for less money – and reaming out the executives who made the long chain of bad calls to get us to this week.

“On today’s earnings call, during which your company announced its historic $7.5 billion in net revenue, you said that today’s layoffs were among your ‘top-five career-difficult moment[s],’ and I believe you,” he writes. “Figuring out just how many people to axe in order to maintain income levels for the chief executive staff and shareholders must have been a logistical nightmare.”

Ouch.

On the homefront, Blizzard fansites seem confused about their next steps. The co-founder of BlizzPro, for example, has said the “writing was on the wall” at 2018’s BlizzCon. The site isn’t closing up – yet – but the team says it’s “struggling with [its] passion for [Blizzard’s] games” and encourages people to migrate to its other tech site, none of which is a good sign for the community.

It’s not all bad news, though. Dozens of classy game studios are extending offers and employment opportunities to those laid off – we’ve seen tweets from MMO companies including Daybreak, ArenaNet, Square Enix, Intrepid, and Funcom, just to name a few. Other former Blizzard top brass extended condolences.

Source: Kotaku
Update
Now there’s a petition.

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flying_dutchman

Because labor unions are obviously the good guys…………….

I’m not sure you can fire a CEO for having a record year. I think most game dev’s are scum but at the end of the day it’s their job to make money. That way they can keep chugging out more lock-box games.

The fact Blizzard had a record year after producing all the trash they did is our fault as consumers not their CEO’s.

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Fenrir Wolf

This is just… really unfortunate for the ex-employees. There’s just such an eclectic abundance of sociopathy in games management today.

I gave my opinion on why that is a little bit back. The state of the video games industry is in another bubble, the cost of fidelity is not sustainable. So shareholders are focusing ever more on sociopathic corporate executives who make big, short-term promises to maximise their profits before the whole ruddy thing bursts.

And burst it will.

The thing is is Kotick is doing exactly the kind of job that the shareholders would want him to in this situation. He’s being a nauseatingly disgusting little sociopathic parasite with no value for (or even concept of) human suffering. Profit is king.

You don’t want Kotick there, but Kotick is the kind of person who’s doing what needs to be done to create these increasingly higher fidelity games that the fans so love. Thus, I’m surprised he’s not hailed as an iconic, heroic figure.

This might sound like I’m in support of Kotick until you realise that I’m not a fan of the fidelity bubble. I never have been. I’ve always seen it as unsustainable, which is why I don’t pay much attention to any titles which focus too much on that fidelity.

I mean, one of my favourite games right now is Little Dragons Cafe, which you can’t accuse of being an example of the grandest effort of modern technology.

What I’m basically saying is that Gamers are to blame. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The greater the demand for increasing fidelity, the more people like Kotick we’ll see take power, and thus the more unstable and ethically impaired a workplace the video games industry will become.

Mainstream games development just isn’t sustainable because of us. Well, less so me of late as I’ve removed myself from that equation by voting with my wallet and just abstaining from fidelity. I’d rather employees have stable jobs than be wowed by the first engine to use raytracing effectively.

Just imagine how those costs will skyrocket when Microsoft releases the RTXbox, with Sony also having some equivalent of it, too. Raytracing as a standard on consoles will only shoot those costs up even higher!

It’s just not sustainable, you guys. This is just the beginning.

April-Rain
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April-Rain

I stopped buying Activision games a long time ago except the blizzard side in which I have played wow on and off since near enough launch.

I have to admit modern wow is just a time sink for me and I played it as that’s always been my go to game but the modern game no longer holds my interest the magic has been missing for sometime.

WoW classic had me super excited but my love of Blizzard has gone this last 12 months, BFA then blizzcon and to which I do own a mobile but I dont game on it, its a terrible way to play games “Blizzard!” and now this……..

Announcing record profits and in the same breath sacking 800 people makes me never want to touch a Activision/ Blizzard product ever, ever again.

The old blizzard that use to give us free time for server outages, be straight up, honest, involved with the community, give great support and totally deserve my love and have free access to my wallet is long gone, it makes me very sad……..

F U Booby Ko tick!

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Melissa McDonald

To me this says that either AB was way overstaffed, or that WoW may be entering a maintenance mode.

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BDJ

Of course they were way over staffed. Damned near every company is way over staffed.

I’m trying to figure out why Actiblizz has to keep people employeed if they eliminated the positions or streamlined divisions. It doesn’t matter if they made millions or billions. They aren’t obligated to keep people around for the sake of keeping them around.

Our office staff had 38 people amongst 3 projects (oil platform construction). Over half of them are friends or family that sit on their phones or YouTube all day doing fuck all of nothing. I’d shit can all of them if I could.

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BDJ

Lmao! So hurt. So sad.

It’s business. You people make things so personal. Wage slaves? You’re hilarious. You have to put down the rage goggles and look at the things objectively, from all angles.

This is no different than a company with 200 employees reorganizing / merging divisions and letting 20 people go due to bloat. This happens all day every day. Hell its probably happened since I’ve been typing this.

You would still be hilariously enraged if blizzard had taken losses this past year and they did the same thing. At the end of the day, they did what was right for the company.

They let go of the helpers that weren’t qualified to do electrical work to improve the company. It’s sad but it’s aimply the way things work.

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Bruno Brito

This is no different than a company with 200 employees reorganizing / merging divisions and letting 20 people go due to bloat. This happens all day every day. Hell its probably happened since I’ve been typing this.

This is COMPLETELY different. What they did here was achieve historic capital and yet, let go of 800 employees, fucking the already low quality of their products, to maximize profit and embelish the books. Kotick knows this isn’t sustainable. And he’s not dumb. He’s eyeing selling his share of the company, surely, and open his silky parachute.

While i’m not going to the extent of calling you sociopath, you clearly lack some common sense here. This money didn’t trickle down, but up. Their products aren’t improving from this, their pockets are. You defending this as normal capitalism is not just laughable, is pathetic.

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Tamanous

I 100% support a company’s right to adjust efficiency and focus in order to protect the health of the company and it’s employees moving forward. The issue is that this is SUPPOSED to be an ongoing or frequent consideration and NOT some flippant, reactionary response to stockholder demands only.

This is a leadership level example of long term mismanagement and industry disconnect with its audience and responsibility toward employees. And yes, this happens A LOT (also emphasized to stress the correct spelling of ‘a lot’ … TWO WORDS PEOPLE!) ;)

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BDJ

You don’t know exactly when they decided to restructure though. It could have been in the works for months.

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Bruno Brito

Yeah, and that changes…what, exactly?

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Nate Woodard

Ultimately, I’m wondering what kind of jobs got cut or better yet, what games had developers taken away.

I feel like Blizzard needs to put all the cards on the table. Tell us what you have in the pipeline. Tell us what you’re trying to do. Ask us what we want.

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Tithian

The harsh reality is that Bobby Kotick isn’t going anywhere, because he answers only to the shareholders and the layoffs boosted share prices overnight. People are simply shocked because they though Blizzard was a bastion of fair practices, but in reality it’s just another big corporation.

People are reacting badly, because obviously firing people when announcing record numbers is incredibly scummy, as they could simply give the C-level execs a 30% pay cut and save hundreds of jobs (Nintendo style).
I could see similar layoffs be considered reasonable if the company needs to do serious restructuring to stay afloat, and they kinda hint that they will be going in that direction by hiring more devs and people in creative positions, but frankly the cynical side of me thinks that they are just saying shit to soften the blow from the layoffs.

And if I was one of their customers, firing entire CM departments is no good news. This just screams “we do not care about customer feedback and support, only $$”. When community-favorite CMs go on Twitter and announce they were fired, that’s a PR disaster right there, and it will simply drive more people away from Blizz franchises.

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Armsbend

I’ve heard a rumor he might be waiting out Iger’s job at Disney.

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Tithian

I wouldn’t be surprised if he has that golden parachute ready. It’s the perfect opportunity, as they said there will be no new releases in 2019 (aka expected drop in revenue) and he just boasted “record numbers with reduced player engagement”.

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Armsbend

He’s been there for quite some time – I assume he might be getting a bit bored of gaming only. Disney might be a good fit – for inroads into the electronic side of things.

I’d hate it personally. I believe Kotick’s thinks of consumers only as an afterthought to profits and I like Disney as a company so much I’d hate to see his stamp on it – but I can still see it as a move to be considered.

Anyone would jump at the chance to run Disney. If not there, I can see him going to a larger, more broad entertainment company in the next few years.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

If ever there was a immoral stain of humanity who is best suited to figure out how to manipulate millions of families around the world out of more money to get less Disney, it Bobby Kotick.

Inb4 this … (censored) … figures out how to put lockboxes into Disney Movies while claiming they are fun and add to the experience.

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Armsbend

How about the theme park is really an elaborate gacha ball? When you enter the park instead of a fast pass you are handed a list of the rides you are allowed to ride? It could be Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or it could be…Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

Only if you can pay money to re-roll the rides you get. The most popular rides are the hardest to get, but it’s more fun to pay to for more chances!

And that secondary black market of the best ride lists? Totally violates the EULA because you don’t actually own the ride lists, you just license them, therefore we have free reign to ignore the fact these secondary markets exist.

Also everything in the park has to be purchased with new Bobby’s Wacky Bucks! You can find exchange booths all the over the park, and you buy 375 Bobby’s Wacky Bucks for just $5!

Meanwhile, it’s 400 Bobby’s Wacky Bucks for a “Hydration Booster” that allows unlimited access to water fountains throughout the park for 1 hour!

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Leiloni

they kinda hint that they will be going in that direction by hiring more devs and people in creative positions, but frankly the cynical side of me thinks that they are just saying shit to soften the blow from the layoffs.

They already have a ton of job listings on their site so it’s not something they just said. They’re definitely restructuring, getting rid of jobs for games that underperformed and thus didn’t earn their keep, as well as jobs that are duplicative and exist elsewhere in the organization. In turn, they’re hiring more jobs in places that are needed to help develop the games that keep the company afloat.

Unfortunate that people had to get fired but it’s pretty standard stuff in terms of doing what’s best for the company. They need to make sure everyone else who works there as a regular employee gets to keep their jobs, and that can only happen if the company makes better profits next year – because this year’s profits were down despite record revenue.

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Tithian

I have several issues with how they went about it:

a) They could have done the same thing gradually, as part of their annual evaluation. That way they can trim the fat the right way, and keep the successful people even if they had to shuffle them to new departments. The way they did this, basically meant they cut entire departments; just because Hearthstone underperformed there is no reason to fire eSports managers that worked for them for 10 years, while also stating that OW eSports are ‘the future’. It makes ZERO sense.

b) When you drop your entire CM staff, the message that comes across to your customers is “we only see you as walking wallets.

c) When you do cuts this way, the message you send to the market is that there is no job security in the company, even for longtime staff. I expect this will hinder their ability to attract Talent, especially considering Blizzard salaries are abysmal. The one saving grace of the company was the chill and friendly atmosphere, and attracted people willing to work for less, for their passion. They nuked this with the new perception of “I might get fired in a year to appease the suits”.

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fallwind

They already have a ton of job listings on their site so it’s not something they just said.

they *always* have a ton of job listings, it’s nothing new, nothing’s changed in their hiring policies.

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Bryan Correll

I have Kotick’s response:

“Let them eat cake. Do those guys not have cake?”

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Armsman

I have Kotick’s response:

“Let them eat cake. Do those guys not have cake?”

More like:

“Let them call to sign up for unemployment benefits. Don’t they have Cellphones?”

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alienlegion

Whelp, I have long subscribed to the #NeverEA movement, looks like it is well past time to add #NeverAB.

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DargorV .

^Essentially, this.

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A Dad Supreme

Nah. I was 21-22ish. Jobs didn’t mean that much to me as I figured I had plenty of time to get more.

Plus it wasn’t his fault, and he was actually a pretty cool guy. Most of them were, and sometimes the machinery would break down or the crane and then you’d get paid to sleep in the break room for hours until they fixed it. Still kept my steel-toe boots from there that they gave you on the first day.

It was one bleak place though. I can only imagine how much worse it is in a coal mine for someone.