Activision Blizzard Employees Brace For Massive Layoffs

Photo: Activision

Staff at the game publisher Activision-Blizzard are preparing for big layoffs, waiting to see who will be one of potentially hundreds of employees who could lose their jobs on Tuesday.

Update: Activision-Blizzard has begun informing employees of redundancies, which will start in the United States before decisions about layoffs are made at Blizzard's regional offices.

Activision-Blizzard Begins Massive Layoffs

Publisher Activision-Blizzard has begun its long-rumoured layoff process, informing employees this afternoon that it will be cutting staff. Rumours suggest that the layoffs could be in the hundreds.

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There’s been no official news from the publisher yet, but we first heard word of upcoming layoffs late last year. At the time, Activision and Blizzard staff told me they expected the axe to fall in February, and I started hearing more and more rumours earlier last week, with whispers suggesting that the layoffs would happen ahead of the publisher’s quarterly earnings call, which is on Tuesday, February 12.

Employees across all of Activision’s offices have been kept in the dark as they wait to see what will happen. Some say they’re pretty sure they’re safe; others say they fear they will no longer have jobs.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that the layoffs would take place on Tuesday US time and number in the hundreds.

When contacted earlier by Kotaku about the upcoming layoffs, a spokesperson for Activision did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Blizzard declined to comment (twice).

This news comes after a tumultuous year for the publisher, which consists of two entities, Activision and Blizzard. Both Activision and Blizzard operate autonomously but are governed by the same C-suite of executives, including CEO Bobby Kotick (whose salary in 2017 was roughly $US28.6 ($40) million).

At Blizzard, 2018 was a year full of cost-cutting, under chief operating officer Armin Zerza, whose mandate has been to reduce spending and produce more games. (Other than expansions and remasters, Blizzard has not released a new game since Overwatch in May 2016.)

Employees all across Blizzard have been told to cut their budgets and spend less money, and there’s general concern about Activision’s creeping influence as the company looks to make more financially-driven decisions.

In October, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime stepped down, to be replaced by Blizzard veteran J. Allen Brack—not as CEO, but, notably, as president. In December, Blizzard abruptly killed the Heroes of the Storm esports program and cut down the development team for that game, its least successful.

People who work or have worked at Blizzard told me that they expect Tuesday’s layoffs to be primarily in non-game-development departments, such as publishing, marketing, and sales. Some of those jobs and roles may then fall to Activision proper, further reducing Blizzard’s autonomy.

Activision, meanwhile, has also been struggling. Last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was successful, one of 2018's best-selling games according to NPD data, but the publisher lost one of its major franchises after Destiny 2's Forsaken expansion failed to meet Activision’s lofty expectations.

In January, developer Bungie announced that it was parting ways with Activision and ending its development contract early, putting the bow on a long-doomed relationship. Bungie would hang onto the Destiny franchise as a result.

Bungie Splits With Activision, Keeps Destiny

Bungie and Activision are splitting up, an industry-shaking divorce that will see Destiny enter fully into Bungie’s control.

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The business angle is that Activision is now missing one of its biggest tentpoles, but the human angle is that the split leaves people in danger of losing their jobs. Activision employed an entire team full of Destiny support staff—PR, marketing, social media, business, and so on—who now have no work.

Two people close to the company told me that there have been a few opportunities for those former Destiny staff to move to other teams, but those opportunities are limited, and members of that department are perhaps the most worried about their job security.

The layoffs will likely happen on Monday and Tuesday. For now, those who might be affected can do nothing but wait.


Comments

    Blizzard and Activision need to split. Activision has been nothing but bad news for them and their rep.

      Activision has been bad news for a while now. I miss the 80s when Activision published such games as The Last Ninja, Ghostbusters, River Raid, Wonderboy and the like. Nowadays it's too cutthroat...

        and Mech Warrior 1

          Oh yeah! Forgot that one as it was a PC game, but I remember playing it to death back in the day, both at home and on the school's 086s. So funny how the clock-speed influenced how fast the game would play, and you actually had to slow it down on faster machines.

            Yeah. As an early 80's baby, my inner child equates Activision to Ghostbusters 2 on the old IBM. Man that game was a total b***h to play as a kid. To this day I still don't get how you broke out one of the ghost busters when they were captured by the mental hospital. When it happened, I just kept going as I never once did that mission successfully.

    "People who work or have worked at Blizzard told me that they expect Tuesday’s layoffs to be primarily in non-game-development departments, such as publishing, marketing, and sales. Some of those jobs and roles may then fall to Activision proper, further reducing Blizzard’s autonomy."

    I'm feeling really sorry for the Blizzard fans right now.

    But on a more pressing note it's yet another reminder of how little big business (whatever industry) cares about the well being of those that work for them, and how expendable this economic system requires that to be so.

    Last edited 11/02/19 12:09 am

      I grew up dreaming about working at Blizzard, not like I have Blizzard posters covering my walls or anything like that but it was always the dream job that I aimed for (knowing it was very unlikely but technically possible was something nice to keep me motivated). Has been like that since I was a little kid right up until at least 2016 when Overwatch was released (and probably sometime after).

      Now though, after the last 12-18 months, I think if they offered me just about any job I'd have to turn it down as I'd rather work somewhere that still cares about what they're developing...

        Haha, I DID have blizzard posters all over my walls, as a teen. Carefully hand-copied, scaled-up versions of the illustrations that came in the Warcraft, Warcraft 2 and Diablo user manuals/lorebooks by Metzen and Samwise. The artists who filled those manuals with sketches were a big part of how I learned to draw.

      I think anyone playing Blizzard games in the last 6 months and looking at the updates they've been putting out and where they've been going can see Blizz are currently doing some of the worst work they've ever done. Personally I've only been in the Diablo 3 and WoW communities but bits and pieces I've heard of the other games doesn't sound good either.

      I decided when I quit WoW early into BFA that I'd take a break from Blizzard...nothing I've seen since has made me regret that decision. The wheels are coming off, they're no longer the golden company they once were.

    Remember that one time back before the merger that we were told that this deal would only be about publishing and then they tried to laugh off everyones calls of bs. Blizzard is done, we are just watching Activision wring the last bits of talent out of Blizzard before they get destroyed in all but name.

    Yep - gotta slaughter that golden goose before the next quarter earning report.

    For the first time in... damn.. 20 years - I don't have a single Blizzard game installed on my PC. I don't even have the launcher as of last week.

    I'll be back for Classic and WC3... I just wish they could make new games of that calibre.

    Imagine being paid 40 million a year. Who needs that type of money? every year. Bungie getting out was good for them and time will tell if it was best for them.

    including CEO Bobby Kotick (whose salary in 2017 was roughly $US28.6 ($40) million).

    Hey Activision, give me a call. I've got a cost-cutting suggestion that could really save you a lot of money.

      Not to mention they paid their new CFO a $15 million bonus recently for the ungodly difficult task of *checks notes* accepting the job.

        I would totally accept that job, pocket the bonus, resign and retire.

    Blizzard used to be such a different company. And definitely profitable.
    It's sad some of the old blizz' of "when it's ready" "soon (tm)" and the quality of blizz is either dead or dying.
    The old blizz would scrap a whole game if it wasn't up to standard... But now they are outsourcing a Chinese company to make a mobile game? And showing a non blizzard company off at blizzcon? Goddamn blizz you've changed.

    Something else is going to take wows place and blizzards with it. There's a spot wide open in the MMO world right now, but so far nobody's been able to fill it with anything as good in quality. I think it will happen eventually, and sooner than later with blizzards sell out downward spiral.

      I really hope that game is Camelot Unchained (the successor to Dark Age of Camelot, which was the largest MMO until WoW took over). I've never played a game that had scaled battles as good as Dark Age. Recent play tests for Unchained had 2809 players in the same battle at once at 30FPS, so it's looking really promising!

    You don't need a big team at Blizzard if you are happy to hire NetEase to make mobile games of your franchises.

    It's really shitty to learn about lay offs in your company from the press: it's basically shows that they're more interested in controlling the story than in the value employees provide to the company.

    I can kind of understand why they do it though: the company wants to tell employees about lay offs as late as possible to keep them working rather than searching for new jobs.

    The games they publish are obviously profitable, but the expectations on sales and earning must be so out of step with reality. The greed is real.

    Blizzard is my childhood.. It is so sad to see them in this state..

    Just let the blizzard name die already..

    also. F U Activision

    I think that's a good idea that Blizzard splits up with Activision because we already know Bungie had split up with Activision just to keep their Destiny licensing rights with them.
    But as Activision said there is nothing they can do since dozens of Activision employees will lose their job and be left out of work.
    Now all we can hope for is more Activision games coming to multi gaming platforms later this year including Sekiro Shadows Die Twice from the developer who brought us Dark Souls, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fuelled which is now going to be developed by Spider-Man developer Beenox, and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy coming to the Nintendo Switch in August rumour that we've all been hearing about still take this with a truckload of salt.
    I hope Toys For Bob brings Spyro Reignited Trilogy to the Nintendo Switch later this year.
    Because my memories with Spyro the Dragon will be coming back to me very soon.

      Personally just hope activision crash and burn, they are driven by nothing but greed. I’m excited for Sekiro too btw

    Having worked at AB for nearly 20 years (the last 10 in Corporate HQ), it's terrible to hear this news, in particular, the timing given that executive bonuses will be paid out in March :(

      Yikes. Hope you and the people around you will be OK.

        I bailed last year, so I'm fine. A lot of hard working individuals are going to end up paying for under investment in game development and penny pinching throughout the organization as a whole.

      Big companies routinely screw staff out of bonuses. I hope that’s not what’s happening for your sake

    Bit of extra info, although it's not pleasant: https://twitter.com/jasonschreier/status/1095374774728048640

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