Activision Shifting QA Tester Contractors to Full-Time Status

Activision Blizzard, the gaming giant recently acquired by Microsoft, is planning on shifting all its “temporary and contingent” QA team members to full-time status. That will result in a minimum hourly rate of $20 for those workers. 

As The Verge helpfully breaks down, the shift comes after Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software announced plans to lay off its QA workers, which sparked protests and attempts to create a union. (In an ironic twist, Activision’s new raise won’t apply to the Raven QA testers, who are still in the midst of unionizing.) Activision Blizzard rival Epic Games also plans on making its QA contractors into full-time employees.

According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, QA engineers/testers make a median salary of $84,056 per year. Over the past 12 months, organizations have posted some 129,161 open QA engineering/testing jobs, and the average position takes 41 days to fill—indicating a robust level of demand.

QA engineering/testing is also a growing profession; Burning Glass estimates it will grow 8.7 percent over the next 10 years. Skills that pop up most frequently in QA engineering/testing job postings include SQL, Java, software development, software testing, Selenium, and Atlassian JIRA.

Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in January, transforming it into one of the largest game producers in the world (with control of iconic game franchises such as “Call of Duty” and “Warcraft”). It’s inevitable that such a move will impact how game-centric software developers, designers, and other technologists work over the next several years. Microsoft has been very public about its plans to retool Activision Blizzard’s culture, which before the acquisition was under intense scrutiny due to allegations of an abusive culture and discriminatory hiring practices

As with any tech conglomerate, any changes Microsoft makes to Activision Blizzard’s employees (whether contract status, compensation, or something else) will no doubt have a significant ripple effect through the surrounding industry. Today it’s QA testers’ employment status; tomorrow it could be something else.  

One Response to “Activision Shifting QA Tester Contractors to Full-Time Status”

  1. jake_leone

    A long time ago (early 90’s) I worked as a game tester at SEGA of America. I was a contractor, through an agency. They hired me with no interview, or testing. Just, here’s a game system, here’s a game, go test it. They never looked at my resume.
    A few months later I was hired at SONY, they read my resume, and I did development work for SONY for 4 years, for 100k/yr.
    So back then we were paid 9$/hr, with overtime, and double overtime. So those 100-120 hour weeks at crunch time were big money makers.
    So SEGA had a policy of firing all the contractors, every 6-8 months. And this was because in California, anyone working as a de-facto full-time employee has to be included in the company medical plan. Keep that in mind when you think about guys like Tom Kalinske, he would fire people just to avoid taking care of them in a medical emergency. SEGA was earning record profits, yet they fired people just to avoid paying medical benefits.
    This actually is a big loss for a company, you bring about 30 new testers, you train them. In 6 months they become great at it, then you fire them, very inefficient.
    In the time I was there, SEGA started earning 1 billion a year in sales, making SEGA the top video game company, which did not last long (Nintendo and Sony quickly overtook SEGA in the years after I left).
    SEGA failed badly in the years after I left, not because I left, but because the management was so bad. Tom Kalinske would like to blame SEGA of Japan for that failure, and some of that is true. But a huge part of the problem is that SEGA of America relied on contractors at every level, and so their expertise just left for other companies and industries. The people who couldn’t get hired to other companies, stayed, making their engineering team progressively weaker and weaker.
    A huge part of a game CONSOLE company’s success is their ability to offer a variety of quality video games. SEGA of America was, for a while, providing that for SEGA’s consoles, but the failure to please outside developers with either a quality API and a stable client base, killed SEGA. From what I could see on the inside, the management at SEGA was quite amateur. They could have benefited by hiring a better development team that could mentor other companies and provide the feedback that was needed to improve the company’s development platform offering. They failed in that regard, miserably. And again, you could see that in the development management team, very oriented toward talking up a game design (wish-listers) (because they had no real programming skills) but doing nothing to address the concerns of other game development companies. All the while, skilled developers would visit the office, in contracting positions, but never get hired on to the team.
    I have done well, since leaving SEGA. I make about 10x per hour, what I made at SEGA. I own a home, Silicon Valley. And have been steadily employed for 30 straight years.
    Game companies often have very bad cultures. And they do nothing in that area to improve it.
    This move to make game testers full time, is just a ploy to stave off unionizing. Will it work? Well, everyone who plays video games wants to be a game tester. Literally it is a dream job. If I ever retire, retiring to a game tester job, would be something interest. Yes, every kid in the department would beat me handily. And the hours are terrible, so forget a family. So scabs are alway available to take the job, I wouldn’t cross a picket line. But a lot of other people will.