Activision Blizzard faces walkouts after Raven Software layoffs

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Activision Blizzard has found itself embroiled in yet another fractious situation, this time with layoffs from the Raven Software QA team sparking outrage and demands that Activision Blizzard re-hire the individuals whose contracts were terminated in “good standing”.

The QA staff were given notice at the end of last week, with team members reportedly called upon to receive the news individually. In total 20 Raven Software contractors are set to be laid off in early 2022, but more were left with serious uncertainty over their future over the weekend. More contractors are expected to hear by today whether they are facing a similar fate, but The Washington Post reports that this already amounts to one third of the studio’s QA team.

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Part of the anger comes from these employees being misled over their job security. In a news release from some Raven Software QA contractors, they claim that “Several of those who were let go recently relocated to Wisconsin in anticipation of the return to in-person work. They did so without relocation assistance from Raven, due to reassurances from the studio that their workload was consistent.”

This comes toward the end of the development process of the latest season update for Call of Duty: Warzone – the free to play battle royale that Raven develops within the franchise. With a revamp to feature a new map, new weapons and more, it’s not too dissimilar to the launch of a new game – these cuts come after five weeks of mandatory overtime to get the update ready. QA is obviously a vital part of that, helping to root out and highlight as many bugs and issues before a game is released.

It’s worth noting that employees in “good standing” have not been underperforming or done anything wrong to give cause to be let go, though as contractors, these staff are not full-time and it is a common industry practice for studios to lay off staff from certain roles after a major release, as they would be surplus to requirements at that time. Arguably that is less true of a live service game such as Warzone.

Over 60 employees from across both Raven and the wider Activision Blizzard studios downed tools, many doing so while working remotely. Alongside the A Better ABK workers alliance and using the hashtag #WeAreRaven.

In a bizarre twist Activision Blizzard made a statement on Monday with regard to the layoffs stating that is was actually “growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources.” It’s true. They have now pledged to make roughly 500 contractors full-time employees over the coming months, though this makes the decisions to let 20 temporary contracts end even more baffling, especially when people have highlighted the vast sums that executives are typically paid and the profits that Activision are able to generate from Warzone.

Activision has had a year filled with damning stories and revelations most recently seeing NintendoMicrosoft and Sony criticising the company for their mishandling of ongoing harassment lawsuits. Having been bombarded with lawsuits and investigations over the summer, the Wall Street Journal recently published a story detailing Activision CEO Bobby Kotick’s prior knowledge of sexual harassment cases within his company and having a hand in harbouring those accused, drawing responses from company heads at the three console publishers. We’re yet to see any more serious ramifications.

Source: The Washington Post

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