Activision Blizzard workers stage walkout over Call of Duty studio layoffs

Employees and contractors at Activision Blizzard are walking out of work today in support of their colleagues at Raven Software. The protest, the third such to hit the company since it was over sexual harassment allegations in July, comes after Raven, one of the studios that supports Activision’s incredibly popular Call of Duty franchise, laid off 12 quality assurance contractors. The action started on Monday when 60 workers at Raven Software, including both full-time employees and contractors, left work to protest the surprise terminations.

The protest has no planned end date, a first for the walkouts at Activision Blizzard. Those involved in the action are demanding the publisher hire all QA contractors, including those who lost their jobs on Friday, as full-time employees. “Those participating in this demonstration do so with the continued success of the studio at the forefront of their mind,” said Blizzard Activision worker advocacy group A Better ABK on Twitter. “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.”

Management at Raven told QA staff at the end of last week it would hold one-on-one meetings with everyone to decide if they would get the chance to stay at the studio as a full-time staff member. The developer told approximately 30 percent of the team their contracts would end on January 28th, with more still waiting to find if they’ll have a job beyond the start of the year. According to A Better ABK, every worker Raven decided not to keep was in “good standing,” which is to say they had not underperformed in their job or committed a fireable offense.

According to , Raven studio head Brian Raffel said during an all-hands meeting on Monday he didn’t consider the terminations as layoffs. Instead, he said the studio had merely decided not to renew the contracts of those who were let go. Raffel reportedly later apologized for his comments.

“We are converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson in response to the layoffs. “Unfortunately, as part of this change, we also have notified 20 temporary workers across studios that their contracts would not be extended.” The move comes after the publisher posted a million during its most recent fiscal quarter.

We’ve reached out to Activision Blizzard for additional comment.

This latest action isn’t directly related to the misconduct claims that have left Activision Blizzard in turmoil for months — though it’s likely safe to say frustrations across the company are at a boiling point. The first walkout occurred in July shortly after the company issued an “” response to the harassment lawsuit from California’s fair employment regulator. More recently, employees after published a bombshell report on Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s handling of the crisis. That article implicated Kotick in the mistreatment that has characterized the company’s work culture for years. As part of that protest, thousands of Activision Blizzard employees .

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Engadget Podcast: Activision’s walkout and toxicity in gaming

This week, Cherlynn and Devindra dive into the toxic mess at Activision Blizzard with Senior Editor Jessica Conditt. California is suing the company over its frat boy culture, something we’ve seen at many gaming companies over the years. What’s actually going on, and what does it mean for the gaming industry as a whole? Tune in for our thoughts! Also, we chat about Facebook’s metaverse ambitions, some new chip plans for Intel and… Xbox Krispy Kreme donuts.

Listen below, or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you’ve got suggestions or topics you’d like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcasts, the Morning After and Engadget News!



Video livestream

Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Guest: Jessica Conditt
Producer: Ben Ellman
Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos, Owen Davidoff, Luke Brooks
Graphics artists: Luke Brooks, Kyle Maack
Music: Dale North and Terrence O’Brien

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Players Avoid Activision Blizzard Games Amid Company Walkout

Players across platforms aren’t logging in to Call of Duty: WarzoneOverwatchWorld of Warcraft, or the rest of Activision Blizzard’s games in solidarity with the developers walking out of the company today.

The Activision Blizzard walkout was organized by developers at the company in response to the serious allegations made against the company in a recent lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The lawsuit, filed following a two-year investigation by the department, alleges that Activision Blizzard cultivated a “frat house” culture in which sexual harassment and discrimination were commonplace. The lawsuit goes on to say that women were routinely denied promotions, which went to less-experienced men, and were paid less for the same work.

Across Twitter, players are using the hashtag ActiBlizzWalkout to show their support for Activision Blizzard employees. Many players are encouraging others not to cross the “picket line” formed by developers at the company by avoiding any games with Activision’s or Blizzard’s name. Besides the games mentioned before, players will be avoiding some major franchises, including Crash Bandicoot, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Spyro, and Guitar Hero.

I stand in solidarity with the #ActiBlizzWalkout today and will not be playing or streaming any of their games. I am inspired by the bravery of those who came forward and have told their stories at very real risk to themselves and their careers, and I hope they find justice.

— Brian Kibler (@bmkibler) July 28, 2021

Today’s walkout isn’t the first response developers at the massive gaming company have had to the lawsuit. Earlier this week, a senior system designer for World of Warcraft stated that “almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out.”

Activision Blizzard has already issued multiple public and internal statements regarding the lawsuit, but they have been received as “tone deaf” by employees and even the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick. Kotick yesterday issued his own statement, in which he called for a “swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment.”

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