Blizzard/Activision celebrates record revenues by laying off 800 employees

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/13/guillotine-hero.html

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#2

I was wondering when BB was going to hit on this. I’ve been tracking the news cycle on this for a couple weeks now as it has been expected to hit in mid February.

I was a community influencer for Blizzard back in the Morhaime hey-day prior to it becoming Activision Blizzard. That place has changed so much since ACT took over and they have absolutely ruined them. I still love their games overall better than anything else that gets put out, but the wide margin they once had is gone.

It is reprehensible when corporations do shit like this. Someone has got to find a way to stop the executive compensation gap that is helping to destroy everything.

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#3

It’s interesting that Activision, a name that meant “quality” to me back in the Atari 2600 days (Pitfall, River Raid, Megamania, Keystone Kapers, Robot Tank, etc.), is now so reviled. And deservedly so.

Fucking fuckers being fucking fuckers.

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#4

And you know what…that’s not even the worst part of this. His pay was already in the books long before these layoffs. But they went out and paid a new CFO a $15m bonus to sign on because the other two CFOs both fucking quit last year (one left to go to Netflix after he was “fired” for talking to Netflix to leave, the other literally up and walked away like a fart in the wind).

So they hire a new CFO (Dennis Durkin) and gives him that $15m bonus up front. Now they can argue all they want that his compensation wasn’t tied to these jobs…yeah fuck off with the excuse making. Executive compensation is way the fuck out of control at this point.

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#5

Next game should be a real shit pile.

#6

Goes to show how meaningless Fortune’s “best company to work for” actually is.

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#7

Let’s see…$28.6M divided by 800…yup, laying off all the lower paid workers to pay for his bonus.

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#8

I’m still bitter that they didn’t name the merged company Blizzavision.

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#9

Jim Sterling just did a pretty good video about how the AAA industry is killing itself in a fruitless pursuit for ever-increasing profit, which these sorts of layoff are a symptom of.

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#10

I’ve been watching this develop over the past year and it seems that Activision is slowly encroaching onto Blizzard’s independence. They’ve scaled way way back on making new content for all games, scaled back on community events and tournaments, everything. The rumor is that Activision is telling Blizzard to keep their spend way way down but also increase profits. The fact that Blizzard has nothing slated for 2019 is no coincidence, and it was also apparent during Blizzcon when the crappy mobile version of Diablo was announced. It was their biggest announcement which was a dud.

I also play a lot of Overwatch and there’s been a lot of frustration that nothing substantial has hit the game in a while. 2018 saw very few progress on the game’s story, the animatics, comics and new game events nearly stopped altogether and its just been a big disappointment. I still play but its not what it used to be a few years ago.

Honestly Blizzard seriously needs to break away from Activision if they can, otherwise they’re going to be leeched for all of their profit until nothing is left. The forecasted lowered profits for 2019 i think are by design, Activision gets to pocket the profits from 2018 and when they fall short this next year they will have more of an excuse to demand more control over Blizzard’s operations.

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#11

…Activizzard would have sounded better.

#12

Blizzard can never and will never break away. Activision owns it hook line and sinker and there is not thing one that can be done about it.

Morhaime sold it off to them to make his money and honestly that was the beginning of the end for Blizzard.

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#13

Blizzard has enough reputation and prestige behind their name that i think it’s possible that if they wanted to they could break off. Do i think this will ever happen? I really don’t think so but wish it could. They’re seriously being mismanaged, i’ll stick around while i can but my time playing Overwatch has gone way way down for the past few months.

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#14

Proof is in the pudding.

Destiny 2 was much worse than the first game and ridden with microtransactions paired lying, cheating systems that secretly halted progress when you were grinding (instead of spending money).

D2 fixed all that, and is a good game now. Activision cut them loose saying they were “not meeting financial commitments”.

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#15

The problem is Blizzard can’t regardless because Blizzard doesn’t exist anymore. Morhaime, Adham, and Pearce are now all gone. And while they were never a true independent group since 94, with Morhaime still there up until the Vivendi acquisition they could have fought for studio independence. Once Vivendi and Activision merged…that dream died.

I’m with you. I rarely play Overwatch anymore (my boys still do). I play Hots with my wife and youngest son regularly, and SC2 with my boys and alone still daily. I unsubbed WoW after Legion launched…I couldn’t keep playing it anymore and didn’t want to keep paying $15 a month for a game I wasn’t getting value from. Hearthstone is fine as a bathroom game every now and then, but otherwise its frustrating and terrible to keep up with the deck/card choices. Blizzard has a fairly toxic community as a whole…massive elitism and hardcore vs casual classism in all their games.

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#16

3 studios that i really believed in have all pretty much gone to shit in the last 5 years. Bethesda, Blizzard and Valve. It sucks because i want to believe that things will turn around but its only gotten more disappointing. At least most of my gaming these days is indie games with the odd AAA title sprinkled in.

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#17

yeah, it sucks. the bottom line to me is, gaming employees need to unionize.

Patrick Beja (who is a long-time WoW player, Blizzard fan, gaming podcaster, and ex-Blizz employee) has some interesting thoughts on all this:

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#18

permanent temp is the concept that makes me think unionizing is necessary. temp work, contract work - fine. i can definitely see games becoming more movie like(*) with shorter term employment. but permanent temp? that’s all sorts of wrong.

  • noting that movie production involves unions. and it seems to have done them well.
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#19

yeah, i agree. wtf kind of corporate loophole assholery is that?

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#20

Yeah, that was at least a big part of the current problem. I have friends who were at Blizzard (North) from the start, and they actually credit being owned by Vivendi as the reason for their early success. Apparently they were given operating funds and generally allowed to do their thing without interference. So they released what and when they wanted to, and killed games that didn’t live up to their quality standards.
But the corporate culture was also changing on its own before, and independent of, Activision. Blizz North got shut down around the time WoW got released, and that was a point when the culture changed as well. They got a lot bigger and more centralized, and with the problems and pressures of modern AAA development, certain changes for the worse were inevitable. The monstrous costs of AAA games means they were going to get a lot more oversight and pressure for higher revenues. The final loss of original management was probably a cherry on top more than anything, as they lost those who remembered the previous way in which things were run, but I suspect they had less and less ability to keep things running that way.

Blizzard’s (traditional) way of operating is to release games on their own schedule, when “done”; Activision’s way of operating is to release something every year, like clockwork. The mobile Diablo really feels like Activision’s influence - or Blizzard converging in their corporate culture.
But there’s not much that can be done - Blizzard was always wholly owned by Vivendi who merged with Activision. So while they may be partners in name, they aren’t in reality.

Game industry employment is already often pretty temporary. (A coworker once described game developers as “migrant labor.”) It’s not uncommon to have a job only for the development period for a particular game (at best), even as an employee. The move to turn employees into contract workers has been a pretty transparent dodge by the game industry to avoid following basic labor laws (after they got in trouble for violating them).
The benefits of unions in the movie industry really are relevant to game workers: keeping health benefits after layoffs; getting consistent credit, better pay and things like residuals. People seem to think game developers get at least something like residuals for having created hit games, but they don’t. Friends who worked at Blizzard got paid a modest salary and a few bonuses that didn’t remotely compensate them for the abusive work hours that destroyed all their marriages, much less any compensation for having created a billion+ dollar IP for the company.

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