Yesterday, at the time when Activision Blizzard's CEO, Bobbie Cotttic, hoped to gain a quarterly profit, informing shareholders that his company had just passed a "record year", the company's publisher Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and more were brought to conference rooms and informed that they were losing their jobs.
"Here's bloodshed," one Blizzard employee told me last night. "More redundancies than we expected.
While Kottic and other executives told investors that the next Call of Duty was still the best one, the workers in the various Activision Blizzard divisions sat nervously on their desks waiting to see who would be next to get the bailout package. Blizzard's publishing department has written a series of meetings from 13:00 to 15:00 in the Pacific Ocean. In the calendar all were empty. Everyone knew what that meant.
– The look of people's faces as they enter through [campus] is just awful, "says another Blizzard employee. "That's the worst.
Later during the conversation, Kothic introduced the grim news: Activision Blizzard, which last year hired around 9,600 employees, will cut its workforce by 8%. This equates to about 800 people. Some of them were junior employees who started very soon in the company; others have been with Activision Blizzard for 15 years or more. Some were informed yesterday; others, especially in Europe and other divisions outside the US, have not understood their fate until this morning.
It was a carnage. People were fired at Activision's headquarters in Santa Monica, California, where a team fate the publishing staff came to work with nothing in common. (Some were fired, some were moved Call of Duty or other teams. Some in other departments were also sacked.) People lost their jobs to King, the builder Sweets crush, as well as in various Activision development studios, including Vicarious Visions (Albany, New York) and High Moon Studios (San Diego, CA). Fate 2Activision Blizzard employees in Europe, Latin America and other regions around the world have also lost their jobs. Some who were fired wrote social media messages to say good-bye while video game developers tried to help by posting jobs on Twitter and Facebook. Although the majority of the dismissed employees were supporting staff, some were in departments such as art and design.
Last week I spoke with about 20 people who were fired or near those who were fired, as well as others who know what is going on in Activision Blizzard. If there is consensus, it is anger. The rage of Kick's comments, in the way that Activision executives seem to see their employees as spreadsheet numbers, the senselessness of this redundancy. There was anger about who was chosen to be fired – two people told me that I felt like a random, random practice – and anger that some important employees were released. Some who were fired told me that they felt safe, expecting their studios or departments not to be affected. Even those who thought the redundancies were necessary or justified said they were shocked by the scale, scope and coolness of the leadership.
In Blizzard, for example, the rumors of large cuts were circulated in November. Then, when I began to learn about the immense changes that came to the legendary gaming studio in 2018, I heard from a former high-ranking official that the redundancies were coming in February. I heard the same from a source included in the community of investors. Another Blizzard employee told me today that the redundancies have been "open secret" for months.
Blizzard, founded in 1991, has developed critically and commercially successful games Warcraft and StarCraft to Diablo and Overwatch, He has retained his high quality of play even after Activision merged with the studio in 2008. He just did not create many new games at the end of the past, increasing tensions with Santa Monica driving. From the beginning of 2018, as Kotaku Earlier, Blizzard's mandate was to reduce costs and create more games.
For those who worked outside the Blizzard development teams in departments such as publishing, espresso, QA and IT, it felt like an ax last year. Ultimately, if Blizzard wanted to develop more games without spending more money, they would have to lose their staff in non-game developers. But the leadership did not say anything. Without a union or other method of collective communication with leaders, employees were left with only a whisper. Until November became December and the new year came, all they could do was wait.
Last week, when the rumors and the climax in the a Bloomberg on Friday evening they reported that hundreds of redundancies came, one Blizzard employee turned to me to ask me if I knew if they would get compensation. The man said they did not expect to be affected but wanted to know if I had heard anything about how the employees would be affected. For every case. On Tuesday evening I realized they were being fired. (Full-time employees who were dismissed through Activiz Blizzard have received compensation even though the contractors are not.)
I've heard other stories. Some people have learned their fate early, signing non-disclosure agreements last week in return for compensation. Others took purchases thanks to the Career Crossings program, which allowed volunteers to leave QA, customer service and IT staff, as we announced in December. Some of them received hints from their managers – warnings to polish their summaries before Tuesday. One Blizzard employee told me they would see the Linkedin web site on computer screens while they were in the office last week.
Some outside Blizzard, in various Activision development studios, thought they were safe but on Tuesday and Wednesday they reported that they or their colleagues were unexpectedly dismissed.
Last night, Blizzard's picture became clearer. Support teams have been supported. The redundancies were greatest in non-development departments, such as IT and QA, according to those who were there. The Spedition Service was hit hard, as many expected in Blizzard – after all, she was led by Amy Morheim, wife of Mike, Blizzard's long-term CEO who left the company last fall. She left at the same time. The two Morhaimes were perceived as major Blizzard escorts, even when it was not as profitable as Activision executives had hoped, and with them disappeared and the department was in danger.
Blizzard's publishing division, which consists of PR, marketing, community and other game support, has also been hit hard. Around 2015 or early 2016, Blizzard split North America and the global publication of two departments, according to longtime employees. It was perceived as a bad step by those who worked there, which caused hostility, cuts and unnecessary bureaucracy. As part of the cuts this week, Blizzard suspended these divisions, releasing dozens in the process. Leaders such as Chief Operating Officer Armin Zerza and marketing boss Todd Harvey, who are closely associated with Activision, run the show.
What does this mean for Blizzard's future? Since early 2018, Activision has had a greater impact on Blizzard, pushing the company to launch more games and find more ways to make money. The general consensus, even among senior officials, is that Blizzard's lack of new production over the past few years has not been robust or sustainable. But Activision's influence raised questions among Blizzard staff whether the studio could keep its culture. One of my former Blizzard employees told me last December: "There is a real fight between entrepreneurs and businessmen … Strategic decisions are being driven by the financial group."
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For decades, Activision's philosophy has revolved around annual editions, mostly with the giant Call of Duty This kind of schedule is diametrically opposed to Blizzard's "launch when done" philosophy, which has led to massively successful games like Overwatch and stone slabs of hearth but it has also led to periods like the one in which Blizzard has gone three years without letting go of a big game. The tension between annual releases and "games as a service", which should not have new, closed editions and sequels, is one of the main reasons that the relationship with Activision and Bungie has never been achieved. Last month, the two companies broke up, and Bungie bought the full sale and publishing rights fate alone.
This year will probably be slow for Blizzard as the company applies its new franchise strategy Diablo, Warcraft, and Overwatch (all of which have new development games, much for smartphones). Then we'll probably see more Blizzard games coming out more regularly than ever before. And we'll have to wait and see if they match the quality that Blizzard has put in the last three decades.
At Yard House Restaurant in the Irvine Spectrum shopping center in California last night, a group of current and now former Blizzard employees met for drinking and sympathy. The mood was gloomy, according to a man who was there. There was a lot of sadness, and the blame turned around. There was anxiety expressed by those who now have to hunt for new jobs and those who might be forced to eradicate their families for new cities or countries. And among those who remain in the company, there is the guilt of the survivors. The consequences of this cutback will remain for a long time. "Tomorrow we are working again," says a Blizzard employee who remains in the company. "I have the feeling that no one will do a lot of work for the rest of the week."