On Feb. 12, game-maker Activision Blizzard announced sweeping layoffs, despite achieving what CEO Bobby Kotick described as record results in 2018.
While it earned billions of dollars from popular games such as “Call of Duty” (seen in the image above), the company still missed its financial expectations, and its expectations for this year have been lowered. “While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realize our full potential,” Kotick wrote in a Feb. 12 press release to investors. “To help us reach our full potential, we have made a number of important leadership changes.”
Those changes aren’t limited to leadership: Activision Blizzard plans on eliminating roughly 8 percent of its current staff, or 800 employees. The layoffs will reportedly affect all company divisions, including Blizzard and King (which makes mobile games).
“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 organization,” Blizzard president J. Allen Brack wrote in an email to the division’s staff obtained by Kotaku.“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.”
As Activision Blizzard adjusts its priorities over the next 12 months, it may even end up hiring more developers and other tech pros. “The number of developers working on Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Overwatch, Warcraft, Hearthstone and Diablo in aggregate will increase approximately 20 percent over the course of 2019,” the company also wrote in that press release.
Earlier this year, the Game Developers Conference released its annual survey, and 47 percent of those game developers surveyed thought they should unionize (some 26 percent said “maybe” to unionization, while 16 percent said “no,” and 11 percent didn’t know). Despite that interest in game-developer unions, though, only 21 percent believed that the industry would actually unionize.
“People who work in games should not have to work an unhealthy number of hours and be subjected to poor working conditions just because someone up the chain of command can’t schedule an appropriate release date or because they need to show their ‘passion,’” one (anonymous) respondent told the survey-takers.
In theory, a union would also make it more difficult for big firms to lay off hundreds of workers despite record financial results. But since unionization seems unlikely to happen anytime soon, tech pros in the game-development world will need to handle issues such as excessive crunch time, inefficient management, and work-life imbalances on their own.
Meanwhile, the surprise smash-hit “Apex Legends” (from Electronic Arts) also seems to be hiring animators, designers and engineers, in case you’re interested.