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.
Upending 800 workers' lives while raking in millions in bonuses for you and your c-suite buddies isn't leadership, it's theft.
We, the workers of Activision and their friends, have had enough. Join us in saying that it's time to #FireBobbyKotick. ✊🏿✊🏽✊🏾
— Game Workers Unite ✊🏿✊🏽✊🏾 (@GameWorkers) February 13, 2019
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.”
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.