Blizzard staffers confirm ‘honor point system,’ further exposing the company’s wage disparities

    
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Blizzard staffers confirm ‘honor point system,’ further exposing the company’s wage disparities

This week we’ve been following Bloomberg’s reports on Blizzard employees’ attempts to secure pay and equitable pay for the gaming industry. Early in the week, staff were circulating a spreadsheet of their wages and raises, telling journalists tales of stories of skipping meals and living on coffee and oatmeal and postponing starting families because of the poor pay from a company that just announced quarterly revenues of $1.93 billion. Yesterday’s follow-up suggested staff are now organizing behind the scenes, preparing a list of compensation demands for the company and lamenting that their “mentors are leaving in droves” because of the poor pay.

It got worse. Redditors exposed – and Wowhead confirmed – an apparent “honor point” system that appears to reward some staff with redeemable points instead of money. The system’s “rewards” seemingly include “receiving game time and Battle.net balance in lieu of cost-of-living increases.”

Honor Tokens given to Blizzard employees as part of compensation. from wow

Former staff have also started dropping grievances on Twitter, confirming the poor and in some cases laughable compensation in some segments of the company.

“I asked an HR rep during a company financial review meeting why other Austin companies got cost of living raises and we ($12/hr) didn’t. [A]nd they said between the game keys and swag, bnet balance and 25 yrs game time we get, we more than double their salary and should be happy,” one former staffer tweeted. Others discussed how they were treated as replaceable, denied earned bonuses, and told to be thankful for their jobs when asking about hazard pay.

Obviously, this is not a super unusual rewards system in corporate America, but it usually comes in tandem with proper wages and raises to begin with, which as employees have been communicating all week is not the case. As the meme goes, try paying for your rent and groceries with honor points and see what that’s worth. It’s real bad when people compare Daybreak to Blizzard and Daybreak comes out ahead.

Source: Reddit, Wowhead

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Dankey Kang

Would have prefered a DKP system myself.

Sleeping at work? That’s a f**king 50 DKP minus.

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kjempff

Sound a bit like how 3rd country aid works.
100m is given to develop a dairy system for poor farmers.
The contract says they have to buy all the equipment from the donating countrys businesses (-50m). Also this requires experts from said country to teach the locals (-20m), beaucracy, management, running costs (-25m), local workers (-5m).
The result 90-95% becomes aid to the giving country’s economy, 5% benefit poor local people (for few years).
= Aid almost entirely benefitted the giver, and the little the receiver got was temporary and artificial.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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Utakata

We’ve been waiting for this for awhile, but still… <3

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Armsman

“Please sir…can I have some more?”
(What’s next for Blizzard – an ‘Oliver Twist’ MMO? Sounds like some of their Development staff are ALREADY living it. Wonder how log before their next round of layoffs to ‘improve profitability without sacrificing quality (oh, and to fund Exec bonuses…but we didn’t say that)’ hit?)

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Funny you should mention Oliver Twist, that was the first image i made for this fiasco, with the one WoW token in the bowl:)

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Sorenthaz

Sounds like a horrible insult to injury. Works for folks who are big fans of Blizzard games and are in their 20’s living with their parents maybe, but not folks wanting to actually earn livable income and maybe raise a family or something.

Again, sure is convenient for them that they get to dodge running Blizzcon this year so they don’t have to deal with fan interaction.

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Leiloni

The idea that the honor point system, extra free gametime, etc. is equivalent to real world bonuses is weird if not insulting. If we get an award like that at my work, we get money deposited into our account based on the level of award, or at the lowest tier I think a giftcard (and this is separate from and smaller than annual bonuses). And you get a raise every year based on performance so while it’s small every year, it does add up.

So while I think some of what they’re saying seems like Blizz can step up, I also get the impression from some of what I’ve read that they don’t all have appropriate expectations. I read in one article they want a 10% raise. Do they not realize how absurd that is lol? That’s a massive raise. That’s something you might get with a promotion. But I’d also like to know what salaries correspond to what jobs, because it’s hard to judge how appropriate – or not – some of these reported salaries are without knowing the jobs they correspond to, and where they’re located.

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Haxton

No, it isn’t. It’s literally a company store, something that hasn’t been a thing since Coal Mining was big in the 1950s. It was trash then, and it’s still trash now.

You can’t fucking buy groceries and pay bills with game time for World of fucking Warcraft.

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Targeter

My company does this reward point scheme, but it is never, and I mean *never* tied to pay or incentives. It’s tied to employment anniversaries, holidays, or other things. We can get fun stuff like gift cards (I redeemed my points last year at Christmas for over $100 in Amazon cards). It’s fun!

But they never, ever equate those points to pay. I always receive my bonuses and increases in actual, legal tender. What Blizzard is doing, tying an reward point system into base pay calculation, is shameful.

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Leiloni

I said it was weird and insulting and doesn’t equate to real world money. What exactly are you disagreeing with?

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Targeter

A 10% raise is not massive. That’s going from $12/hour to $13.20/hour. That’s a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA in HR parlance), especially if no COLAs have been handed out for a few years.

It’s tough out there for certain companies, but Blizzard is not one of them. Last year, my company had a good (not great, but good) year. I received a 5% merit increase for the year based on my performance review, just like I have every year I’ve been there. I also received a 12% salary adjustment because we switched wage scales to a more competitive market to attract better talent. And the company distributed a flat 9.5% annual bonus to every employee based on our KPIs.

A 10% increase may seem insane to you because your corporate culture has conditioned you that way. I used to work for a place like that; no merit increases, no bonuses, and the only way you got a pay raise was by being promoted and even then the wage increase was capped at 10%, no matter what the position was.

You can call BS on my story if you like, but every bit of it is true. A 10% increase is not earth-shattering. In the above example, that would equate to an addition spend of $200/week for each employee. Even if you had 200 employees, that’s an additional spend of $16/month. That is a drop in the bucket, budget-wise. It’s a rounding error. I know not everyone will have the same increase amount of $1.20/hour but the metrics of the increase scale very favorably for the company.

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Leiloni

A minimum wage entry level likely part time position is a terrible example. What’s more realistic is a company where most people are making $50k-100k or more based on position and years there just for your average admin/office/business staff and not the executives and other higher paid positions. Split it down the middle and say you have a bunch of managers making average $75k. A 10% increase brings them to $82, 500 which is yes, a massive jump. When you get raises every single year they’re not 10%, they’re 3-5% every year because they happen so often. Another 9.5% bonus on top of that is also a huge amount of money when your giving bonuses every year to all your employees, as opposed to just the higher ups, or just when maybe there was an outstanding year. I’m sorry but without context, your story just doesn’t add up.

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Tee Parsley

Whatever special sauce they put in their games, it doesn’t work on me.

This whole thing makes me happy that I have never bought a Blizzard game, ever. Well, there was that couple of dollars on a WoW demo CD way back when. Beyond that — Nada!

I expect that to continue….

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Anstalt

What I have never really understood about employees like Blizzard is that tactics like this (low pay etc) is ultimately self-defeating.

If you treat your staff poorly, they leave. If staff keep leaving, you lose all their knowledge and experience (which is a bigger waste of money than simply paying them properly in the first place). Not only that, but high staff turnover will also result in lower quality games in the future, resulting in less income.

I know Blizzard obviously still makes a ton of money, even with this self-defeating attitude, but its not a stable long-term strategy. Their competitors, who do look after their staff, will end up with all the best employees, their games will be better and so they’ll steal Blizz’s market segment.

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Bruno Brito

but its not a stable long-term strategy.

Consider that maybe Blizzard is simply realizing it’s death throes and Activision already started their looting process.

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agemyth 😩

If you treat your staff poorly, they leave. If staff keep leaving, you lose all their knowledge and experience (which is a bigger waste of money than simply paying them properly in the first place). Not only that, but high staff turnover will also result in lower quality games in the future, resulting in less income.

The classic Activision/Bobby Kotick approach to running a business has no interest in treating employees as human beings. They are cattle to them and completely expendable.

Kotick is a disgusting worm of a person.

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Bruno Brito

And yet we got zealots in this thread defending him for free.

Clearly he isn’t overpaid for nothing.

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Java Jawa

Isn’t that the truth . . .

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Tee Parsley

American corporations rarely think futther than the next quarterly bonus.

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Franklin Adams

Change rarely to never and you’re absolutely right. As soon as you let MBA business criminals or “activist investors” (read: Corporate Raiders) dictate anything to do with your business or products nothing matters but producing a profit with nothing but the bare minimum in terms of costs allowed or they’ll strip the assets and leave nothing but a corpse behind.

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Arktouros

The reason they can get away with paying so low is there’s basically a never ending source of replacements for the fields of Quality Assurance and Customer Service. If the choice is working like a slave at a fast food joint or working like a slave in an office setting I’m going to choose the office setting.

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Bruno Brito

If the choice is working like a slave at a fast food joint or working like a slave in an office setting I’m going to choose the office setting.

Yeah.

Yeah…

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Khrome

Problem is they’re also losing highly trained programmers and designers, and those are much, much harder to replace – Especially as those groups don’t really lack for work, and a company’s reputation can get around quickly.

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Khrome

Shareholders don’t care about long term strategy.

Shareholders only care about short term gains.

If it looks like the company is going to do badly next quarter, they bail out and leave it to die. They couldn’t give a shit about the employees, the product or a long term strategy.

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Arktouros

I dunno about this one.

For sure implying “company coupons” or in this case Honor Points is part of your pay compensation is super shitty. No arguments here on that part. My company does points and like most companies it’s just extra funding allotted to each department as part of their bonuses/awards they can give each year.

However that Bloomberg article seems a bit wonky reading through it. Like complaining about 10% raises when they thought they should get more? What? The average raise is typically 3-5%. Discussing a video game tester and/or customer service rep is going to be vastly, vastly paid less than a senior developer. Like obviously. You’re talking about an entry level positions most people can reasonably do with little to no experience and comparing that to a senior level position that typically requires years of experience and education to fill.

I mean good luck to them, but customer service and quality assurance are some of the most thankless shit jobs out there you can get for any industry and they’re all badly compensated. If you can find one that isn’t then jump ship immediately because that’s just not the standard.

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Bereman

A typical raise based on performance may be 3-5%, but it looks like they are talking about where the company was supposedly looking at what they were paying (which has been historically lower compared to similar positions in other companies, and we’ve known this) and were supposed to be correcting that…

Those kinds of raises can be much larger than the performance based type, and based on the article were not (and thus still did not reach competitive levels of pay). So it’s different than “I got my annual raise, why wasn’t it 10%?”

Of course, they then layer on using the Blizzard “perks” as being a replacement…which let’s do some math, cause this gets ugly.

Let’s assume the cost of living increase is…10% higher (since that’s a number they bring up). The tweet above mentions $12/hour…which is pretty low for where I live, near the center of Virginia…which has a fairly low cost of living.

Where Blizz is located, either in Irvine or Austin? Holy shit. That’s low.

Anyway, that’s $24,960 before any sort of insurance cost or reduction from taxes. So the assumed cost of living raise other companies in Austin have had would put it at $27,456. Still not great for the area, but sure, it’s higher.

So 25 years of gametime (for a game you may not even be actively playing, or take time away from). That’s $4500.

So we’re up to $29,460.

The HR reps, the “you should be happy to be here” HR reps, claim that between the swag, the bnet balance, and the gametime, that the Blizz people “more than double the salary of those other places.

For that to be true (based on these quite possible numbers), they would literally have to get more than what they make (before taxes) in Bnet balance, game keys, swag (probably based on MSRP and not on cost to the company), and that’s *after* the gametime amount is applied.

$25,452 worth of those things that can’t feed yourself or a family, can’t pay medical bills, can’t pay rent, can’t be saved in a bank or invested for the future, and hell, may be things you already own and your friends all own because they either bought them or you already gave them, or they just don’t want, so a decent chance you can’t even give some of it away.

Even if the companies had a 1% increase, it’s nearly as much as they make in real spendable dollars (again, before takes), so that claim from HR is bullshit of the highest order. Either in terms of it actually being that amount of stuff and them considering it to be justifiable when comparing salaries, or that it’s nowhere near that high and the HR rep was talking about of their ass (I mean, really? Over $20,000 worth of stuff?).

All while the CEO is among the highest in terms of salary in the gaming industry, and while Blizz is taking in either steady revenue or even making nice profits while they fire staff (like we saw in 2019).

So I’d say we do know about this one. It’s bullshit. They are denying proper cost of living raises (which are, again, different from performance based raises are meant as a corrective action, not a reward) and justifying it with “Blizzard stuff, yo.”

Bereman
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Bereman

I forgot to note that the “25 years of gametime” is essentially a one-time payout in terms of worth, equal to only $180 a year.

So the amount per year of other stuff they claim makes for something “worth” double the salary of other places that had the cost of living increases would actually need to be over $4000 higher than what I’d mentioned, and still can’t feed you, cover school supplies, pay for rent, medication, hospital bills, travel to and from work (in a non-Covid world), etc.

Yikes.

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Arktouros

Again, obviously, substituting any kind of compensation with company products in just about any industry is bullshit. I am not arguing there but I appreciate your zeal in spending so much time to re-explaining it?

According to MIT’s Living Wage calculator (updated 2018) Austin TX comes in at around $11.78/hr for single adult, 0 children. The numbers are much worse for Orange County (Irvine) of course at $16.52/hr for single adult, 0 children.

One of the biggest problems with the Bloomberg article is that there’s so little actual specification when they talk. For example the writer often times will say “Blizzard Employees” and interchangeably discuss positions ranging from Customer Service to Quality Assurance to Senior Developer. Again these are all vastly different and will naturally make different money. Saying someone making $12/hr in Austin isn’t bad where saying someone making $12/hr in Irvine is pretty bad. However I don’t see any specific numbers for any specific scenario?

Yes, yes, the CEO and executive staff makes lots of money. They make that kind of money because they specifically squeezed revenue out of their company and employees as much as they possibly could. Is the argument here that a bunch of executives of a multi-billion dollar entertainment company are greedy? Like, ok? Obviously? Is there an argument there or is it just like shame on you greedy fat cats? Cause most business/industries at this point are built on the backs of exploited individuals and employees and while we’re all keen to point out what a travesty it is apparently it’s not terrible enough that people are willing to stop using the companies products so probably will just continue.

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Tee Parsley

Cost of living has gone up a lot in the Austin area since 2018. Boomtowns do that.

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Arktouros

Yes but then acting like this is some multi-year long ongoing problem isn’t really accurate either then. As someone who lives in a lower cost of living area (less than 2018 Austin) that hasn’t blown up the most likely reason they setup there was because the cost of living was so low. I used to see that all the time many years ago where companies would setup call centers and the like here and it was a cheap paying, low entry job but for the area wasn’t bad (better than fast food).

The most likely outcome to that scenario is that they will move that operation to another part of the country where the cost of living is lower instead.

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Tee Parsley

Lots of exploitable college grad and gamer types who jump in with starry eyes. Really easily exploitable workforce.

People like the Austin area, though with nearly 50 years experiance here, it’s not like it ever was. Old fart lawn stuff.

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Arktouros

Yes but exploitable means they can keep wages low to take advantage of the scenario. If the cost of living has “boomed” as you say then that won’t be viable. If the prevailing attitude of the people in that area is “Oh you make billions, you should pay us more.” then why stay in that area?

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Java Jawa

To further add on here, add in taxes, Medicare, social security state, federal and that’s another 30 to 35% gone from that pool.

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Bryan Correll

Are honor points transferable? The employees could set up an RMT site to turn them into cash!

Details

Yes, this is a joke. I doubt that there’s any way employees can actually make bank on them.

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Haxton

16 tonnes, what do ya get?

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’tcha call me…
cause I owe my soul to the company store.