While the news has been out in the ether for a week or two, the day of reckoning has finally come for a significant portion of Activision Blizzard’s employees; this in a year when Bobby Kotick, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, said in a 2018 earnings report statement that “while [their] financial results for 2018 were the best in [their] history, [they] didn’t realize [their] full potential.”
The company, already seen as greedy by some gamers, is only helping to foster the notion with some of their latest moves. They decided to make a Diablo for mobile (you have a phone, don’t you?), which will do well in China, but is something no Diablo fan was asking for. They parted ways with Bungie and their AAA IP after it was decided that the duo of Destiny and Destiny 2 “weren’t meeting [their] financial expectations,” and went on to specifically say that Destiny 2: Forsaken was a culprit– though Bungie has stated that they are not unhappy with the results. Then Activision Blizzard convinced Dennis Durkin to return to his previous role of Chief Financial Officer, an offer that came along with $3.75 million as a signing bonus and $11.3 million in performance-based stock grants. Yesterday, it came out that the company was possibly offering refunds for one of its games, Guitar Hero Live, after servers were shut down, shrinking the song count from roughly 500 to 42. And finally, though this one is a little more dubious, as it can be seen both as positive and negative, Activision Blizzard took their employees on a company outing to Disneyland, where the entire park was rented for the day– whether this was a nice gesture before cutting ties or another example of frivolous spending is up for debate. Add to these that over the last few years Activision Blizzard has fully embraced predatory loot-boxes and to say their reputation has taken a ding would be like saying a $3.75 million signing bonus is chump-change.
Activision Blizzard announced today that it laid off 8% of its work force. With a company this size (totaling 9,600 people) that amounts to 775 people who are no longer employed as of this morning. Called a “de-prioritizing of initiatives that didn’t meet expectations“, Bobby Kotick said that those cut would be “non-development and administrative-related costs“, so that they can better focus on live services, eSports, advertising and Battle.net. While doing this, they also plan on upping resources for development by 20% on the franchises its decided to put more weight behind– things like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Right now, the only bright spot is the encouragement that those who were laid off will be getting a “comprehensive severance package“, profit-sharing bonuses and job search assistance. While that may seem like small compensation, at least the former employees aren’t left with nothing.
So far this year, two of the biggest gaming companies have been having a rough time– EA is also wading through its own problems, though the depth of them is shallower in comparison to Activision Blizzard’s, undoubtedly boosted by the early success of the free-to-play battle royale Apex Legends and the imminent release of Anthem, which at least has people curious, whereas Blizzard recently announced that they will not be releasing anything of substance during 2019.
Where these decisions will lead the company is hard to say, but I know it must be hard for those employees who no longer work there. Here’s to hoping that every individual finds another occupation that uses their skills, knowledge and experience to that company’s benefit, wherever it may be. As for Activision Blizzard as a company, the next fiscal year will be an interesting one– they are going to have to work hard to win back trust, and considering the position they have placed themselves in, it’s not going to happen over night.
What do you think of the layoffs? Are they a necessary evil or just plain evil? Is it due to greed or an honest desire to “re-structure”? Let us know in the comments!