Call Of Duty: Warzone Devs Stage Walkout Over Layoffs

Call Of Duty: Warzone Devs Stage Walkout Over Layoffs
Image: Activision

Quality assurance testers and other developers at Raven Software, the Activision studio in charge of the extremely lucrative free-to-play battle royale Call of Duty: Warzone, are walking out on the job today to protest surprise layoffs that were foisted on staff beginning last Friday. The group told Kotaku in a statement it has only one demand: give all QA testers, including those just laid off, full-time positions.

“Those participating in this demonstration do so with the continued success of the studio at the forefront of their mind,” the group wrote. “The Raven QA department is essential to the day-to-day functioning of the studio as a whole. Terminating the contracts of high performing testers in a time of consistent work and profit puts the health of the studio at risk.”

Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Management at the Wisconsin-based studio informed QA staff at the end of last week that they would have meetings starting over the next month to decide which employees would get converted to full-time with raises and which ones would be laid off. As part of the first wave of meetings, 30 per cent of Raven’s QA team saw their contracts terminated (effective January 28), while others await news of their fate as they head into the holiday season.

“These personnel cuts come after five weeks of overtime, and before an anticipated end of year crunch,” protesting Raven staff wrote.

The group said that every QA developer affected was in “good standing” with the company, and had been told, back when standard promotions and raises were not given out last March, that “positive departmental changes” were coming in the future. It also said the laid-off staff were central to the ongoing development and maintenance of Warzone, which generates millions in revenue every day and is currently set for a big update integrating it with the recently released Call of Duty: Vanguard. Some of those affected had even recently relocated to Wisconsin without financial assistance in preparation for the coming return to the office following covid-19 shutdowns.

This latest worker action is the third at Activision Blizzard in recent months, and the first to focus primarily on a major studio on the Call of Duty side of the business. Following the news of a California lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at the company over the summer, hundreds of staff staged a walkout demanding swift action by management. Despite major concessions from management in the months that followed, thousands of workers at Activision Blizzard called on CEO Bobby Kotick to resign in November following a bombshell report by The Wall Street Journal implicating him in the mistreatment.

As part of the ongoing labour actions at the company, staff were also able to win an increase to the minimum hourly rate for contract workers, additional paid time off, and slightly better benefits. These improvements would have overwhelmingly benefited QA testers specifically, often the lowest and most exploited rung on the game development ladder, especially at Activision Blizzard. At Raven at least, promises of better working conditions appear to have come at the expense of new cost-cutting measures, even as Activision Blizzard posted over $US600 ($856) million in new profits last quarter.

Comments

  • I wonder if this is why Vanguard patch locked pS5 out of playing, with a measure saying it was only ‘installable at 1600’.

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