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Activision Blizzard Layoffs Shock the Industry

Monday, February 11, 2019, was a difficult day in the gaming industry. This was the day that despite Activision Blizzard reporting record profits, they fired around 800 people within the company. That was almost 8% of their staff. The reason given by CEO Bobby Kotick, that although they achieved record profits the company failed to meet expectations for the 2018 fiscal year.

The layoffs affected the entire company, some employees had been there for 15 years or more, while others were hired recently. The job losses rocketed through Activision’s main office including the Destiny Publishing staff. Other’s affected worked at King, developers of Candy Crush, along with Vicarious Visions and High Moon Studios, and Blizzard. Individuals from Europe, Latin America, and the US.

The gaming community reacted as it always does, with solidarity for those out of a job. Social media was flooded with well-wishers but also developers from all over the industry sharing their job listings and encouraging people to get in touch. Those laid off took to Facebook and Twitter to say goodbye and share their stories too.

What’s left is anger. According to Kotaku, many of those individuals that have lost their job have reported rage at how everything was handled. Despite rumours about redundancies circulating since November, many people who were given the impression that they were safe found themselves without work on Monday.

Gamers too are angry, but they’ve been frustrated with Activision Blizzard for some time. Blizzard begin in 1991 and brought massively popular titles to the world such as Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft and Overwatch. The fanbase was huge and dedicated. But in recent years Blizzard have failed to deliver anything new or meet the expectations of their audience when it came to extensions, game modes and continued development of their most beloved titles.

Blizzard merged with Activision in 2008 but that didn’t stop them from coming out with impressive titles including Hearthstone in 2014, Heroes of the Storm in 2015 and Overwatch in 2016. However, tensions behind the scenes have been increasing in recent years with pressure being put on Blizzard to cut costs yet bring out new titles. Then came the awful announcement of the next addition to the Diablo franchise not coming to PC as so longed for by the players but coming to mobile instead. Furthermore, Blizzard Entertainment have no games coming out in 2019, nothing at all.

Anger Towards Bobby Kotick

Today there have been calls from Game Workers Unite demanding Activision Blizzard fires CEO Bobby Kotick after the redundancies made at the start of the week. The CEO and other individuals did receive huge bonuses and recently Dennis Durkin was given a bonus of $15 million simply for taking on a new job in the company.  It is unlikely for the petition or the call to make a difference at Activision Blizzard, but it is highlighting the situation and drawing attention to the working conditions in the gaming industry.

Blizzard fans are nervous about the future. What’s to come of their favourite studio that is no being left behind and losing the fight to games such as Fortnite and Atlas Legends. These free to play games are reaching millions of continuous players and producing an income from sales of season passes, skins and other cosmetic additions to the game. Players are proving happy to pay for items when the base game is free and the content keeps evolving. Perhaps Blizzard will stop neglecting their titles and their fanbase and start working towards a brighter future.