Activision Blizzard Lays Off Hundreds Of Employees

Photo: Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Publisher Activision Blizzard has begun its long-rumoured layoff process, informing employees this afternoon that it will be cutting staff. On an earnings call this morning, the company said that it would be eliminating 8% of its staff.

In 2018, Activision Blizzard had roughly 9,600 employees, meaning nearly 800 people are now out of work.

At Blizzard, the layoffs appear to only have affected non-game-development departments, such as publishing and esports, both of which were expected to be hit hard.

“Over the last few years, many of our non-development teams expanded to support various needs,” Blizzard president J. Allen Brack said in a note to staff that was obtained by Kotaku.

“Currently staffing levels on some teams are out of proportion with our current release slate. This means we need to scale down some areas of our organisation. I’m sorry to share that we will be parting ways with some of our colleagues in the U.S. today. In our regional offices, we anticipate similar evaluations, subject to local requirements.”

The letter also promised “a comprehensive severance package,” continued health benefits, career coaching, and job placement assistance as well as profit-sharing bonuses for the previous year to those who are being laid off at Blizzard. (Blizzard employees receive twice yearly bonuses based on how the company performed financially.)

“There’s no way to make this transition easy for impacted employees, but we are doing what we can to support our colleagues,” Brack wrote.

The news follows months of rumours about layoffs at the publisher, which heated up early last week as word began to spread that hundreds of people across Activision Blizzard’s various divisions might lose their jobs.

Leading up to today, some of the publisher’s employees had been coming to work with no clue as to what might happen. One person at Blizzard told me this morning that as employees arrived, they cried and exchanged hugs in the parking lot.

Last year, Kotaku reported that Blizzard’s 2018 mandate had been to cut costs and produce more games, and that as a result, layoffs would likely hit the company’s support departments even as Blizzard continues to expand its development teams. Brack’s email suggests the same.

With Activision's Influence Growing, Blizzard Is Cutting Costs

Blizzard has spent the year taking big measures to cut costs as it prepares for a lean 2019. Those measures, as conveyed by people who work or have worked for the iconic studio, include employee buyouts in which workers are offered money to leave, a broadening of the finance department, and the limitation of budgets for any team at the company that isn’t directly making video games.

Read more

“It’s critical that we prioritise product development and grow the capacity of the teams doing this work to best serve our player community,” he wrote. “We also need to evolve operationally to provide the best support for new and existing products.”

Meanwhile, in a press release to investors this afternoon, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick wrote: “While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realise our full potential. To help us reach our full potential, we have made a number of important leadership changes. These changes should enable us to achieve the many opportunities our industry affords us, especially with our powerful owned franchises, our strong commercial capabilities, our direct digital connections to hundreds of millions of players, and our extraordinarily talented employees.”

This is breaking news and will be updated as more information comes in.


Comments

    Activision CEO Bobby Kotick wrote: “While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realise our full potential.

    Ridiculous.

      "There's still a few nickels we didn't suck up."

      Translation: There are people in our company with loads of money. More money than you could ever possibly need or even comprehend. Well, those people need more money!

        Pretty much, he has to satisfy share holders(mostly himself) somehow because their shares have tanked in the last 6 months. Someone has to pay for his net worth dropping from $7 to $3.5 billion. The true mark of a psycho.

          SHAREHOLDERS ????
          They're ruining the video game industry.

            Ol' Bobby owns nearly 40% share from the buyout with Vivendi. Why this is not a conflict of interest you ask? Who the fuck know$...

      I absolutely hate this. I work for a big company that announced a staff reduction of 8000 roles over the next 3 years yet the company made a profit and they're also cutting the yearly baseline pay increase in half. All in the name of a share price, which has been tanking since the CEO came on board in 2015

      "we didn't force enough micro transactions down the throats of our paying customers and Activision isn't happy"

    I hope that everyone who does lose their job today is able to land on their feet safely. Being unemployed in the US is almost a death sentence nowadays, so it's good that Activision will be able to pay out the laid off employees and cover them while they find new work.

      Esspecially considering we usually hear about companies that lay everyone off and can't pay them what they owed.

        Keep in mind that there is a very big difference behind filing for bankruptcy and then laying off an entire team, and downsizing their teams for the sake of continuing business practice.

          There is a big difference but I'm not talking about companies going bankrupt.

    Everything in this article reads to me like a normal "It's time for an earnings call, and therefore we're cutting the fat." and while it sucks that people have lost their jobs over revenue, it's all a part of running a business. The business either cuts its losses now for the sake of continued growth and future opportunity, or it becomes too big and eventually files for bankruptcy.

    Considering Blizzard have only published one new title this year, which was an expansion for WoW, I can't imagine they have much work to for the rest of the year, and I would imagine that it's a role that could be moved over to the Activision side of the business. As for the esports team, I recall seeing a couple of tournaments being cut over the last 6-12 months. And then there's the culling of HoTS, which had some esports coverage - They probably looked at the team and saw them overstaffed too.

    I think it's time (long overdue really) for Blizzard to split with Activision

      I think it is to but this makes that all the harder to manage. This is a pretty common business move, mainly clearing up duplicated work practices. Typically its support areas, which means that if Blizzard did want to split off again, it wouldn't have those support areas in their structure any more.

      And you cant just build those areas up overnight. What that means is Blizzard is integrated so much more into the Activision structure that I'm not sure it will be possible to just split if they wanted.

      You cant call them independent any more, which means "when its done" might no longer be possible either.

        ^ this.
        I'll go one step further. This "duplication" removal seems to be really about removing studio autonomy under the guise of profitability.
        It will specifically make the individual studios completely dependant on activision.
        It means each studio will be expected to bring in the $$$ and can no longer claim that their support costs are high as a defense for non-profitability.

        Played WoW recently? "When its done" was thrown out the window long ago. There was literally dev commentary saying x feature didn't make it due to time and yes, this class sucks but we'll address it in a future patch because there's no time right now. What's worse is the "future patch" rolled around with no changes...devs then said the patch was never slated for major changes to the class, that stuff happens at the start of the expansion. Absolutely ridiculous.

          Not since Legion, which in hindsight was when it became clear "when its done" was less important than previously. They took dev staff away from WoD so Legion didn't fail which ultimately suggests they were getting comfy with releasing stuff that wasn't ready.

          Mostly pointing out that this integrates them so much more than any illusion that might have still been there has all but disappeared. They're now little but an arm of Activision, just with a fancy name to trick the public into believing theres hope.

          Like Star Wars and Disney trying to maintain separate images and failing.

      Bad news bud. They're one and the same now. It's not the same as Bungie.

      The Blizzard you once knew and loved is dead. Long dead.

      It's a little more than overdue but it's also an impossibility, Blizzard can't just split from their parent company, they can only be cut loose.
      (And I don't see that happening unless Activision decides to leave the gaming industry all together)

    Why is this a big deal?
    Sucks for those that lost their jobs of course.
    Fact is though, if you're an employee and you're performing well, the company will keep you.
    I have asked people to resign a few times because they just weren't doing what they were supposed to.
    In gaming terms: If you noob, you gone.

    Last edited 13/02/19 11:01 am

      That is absolutely not the case. There is no guarantee in a business that if you perform well then your job is safe. I have been in many situations where people including myself have been performing well but the company needed to make positions, not the people themselves, redundant in order to reduce expenditure or change focus.

      To put it in "Gaming Terms", you can be the world's best DPS but if the party needs a healer instead, you're out.

    I'm betting the "duplication" they're referring to is things like support, billing, policy, legal, marketing and brand.
    If their core R&D teams dont do operational support and infra, then those may also be duplicated.

    I hate to be "that guy", but I've been whinging about Blizzards focus on marketing and esports for years now. They need to get back to basics or their IP will be worthless within a decade.

    Esports in particularly bugs me. It's just so daft. And it's literally only a thing because big companies want to push live-service games, which means they can spend less on development, and more on marketing, fooling customers into purchasing truckloads of MTX.

    And you just can't compare someone who spends their entire life playing a single sport, to someone who dedicates themselves to a game up until a new game comes out. Or the sequel. Or whatever the latest hit is.

    I know people will point to LoL or DOTA2. But they too will be eclipsed by the "new thing".
    Or what about all the Fortnite pros? What happens if Apex Legends takes over as the #1 eSpOrTs title?

      I'd there are exceptions to that, such as Starcraft, which has had its ups and downs but hasn't been eclipsed in 20 years. There are more popular games but professional Starcraft (both BW and LotV) will always have an audience regardless of what the current hotness is.

      And you just can't compare someone who spends their entire life playing a single sport, to someone who dedicates themselves to a game up until a new game comes out. Or the sequel. Or whatever the latest hit is.
      Actually, you can.

      It's not much different to players who switch from Aussie football to American football, or to rugby, etc. It's called transferable skills. It applies to Esports as well, especially in shooters.

      Just because you apparently dislike, or disprove of it, doesn't mean anything.

        Hmm.. comparing the extremely rare case of players switching sports to entire playerbases switching to the new hotness game isn't really apples for apples.

        Look, I'm not entirely against esports. EVO is an example of esports done right. Some truly classic Street Fighter moments over the years.

        However greedy corporations like Blizzard, Riot and Valve having their own esports programs is different.

          Well as lambomang points out below, in a lot of cases the games aren't SO different from one another that it's like they're a whole other sport either. In many ways you're very much looking at the same 'sport' with a set of rule changes.

          I do agree on the companies that set up walled gardens for their own personal esports leagues though.

          Dude, athletes change all the time.
          Usain Bolt played soccer.
          Jarryd Haynes went to play Grid Iron after Rugby League.
          Brock Lesnar went from WWE to UFC and then back to WWE.
          The most famous of all was Michael Jordan going from basketball to baseball.
          It's not rare at all.

      And you just can't compare someone who spends their entire life playing a single sport, to someone who dedicates themselves to a game up until a new game comes out. Or the sequel. Or whatever the latest hit is.
      Yeah you can. You're thinking of esports titles as separate sports, for example LoL is soccer and DOTA2 is rugby. Genres are the more apt comparison here. MOBAs are soccer, Battle Royales are Rugby, CS:GO/tactical shooters are Aussie Rules, etc.
      Lots of transferable skills between games in the same genre. That's why a lot of Fortnite streamers are able to switch over to Apex Legends and still kill it.

    If anyone has a 20 minutes to spare watch Jim Sterling's video on this.

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