The games industry is nothing if not cyclical, and on cycle that I am really tired of, and frankly angry about seeing, is this unsustainable trend that’s currently playing out once again, this time with Activision.
What am I talking about? We’ve got another case of a major company firing employees and cutting costs in order to cling to the myth of infinite success, something the game industry has always done, largely to its own detriment. Every time this happens I’m left wondering, “When will this happen one too many times before if finally stops?”. And here we are again. After reports last week that mass layoffs were coming to one of the bigger publishers, namely Activision, the reports have now been confirmed and layoffs are coming to 800 employees/
Ahead of this afternoon’s Activision-Blizzard earnings call, the news was handed down to the staff at Blizzard via a letter from company president J. Allen Brack. Kotaku was able to obtain a copy of the letter which included the following statement from Brack:
“Over the last few years, many of our non-development teams expanded to support various needs. 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. 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.”
Activision and Blizzard have had a pretty rough go of it in 2018. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime stepped down earlier in the year, followed by a round of executive shuffling that signaled trouble to sum analysts. The company then began to sunset Heroes of the Storm. Stock for Activision took a major hit as well, tumbling quite a bit over the course of the last year. But despite all of that, the company still managed to land several major successful releases which brought in significant profits for the publisher.
“While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realize our full potential,” Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard said in an earnings report statement. So I have to wonder exactly how a tumultuous but still wildly successful financial year can result in layoffs because it “missed expectations”. How high were your expectations? Why do employees who put their heart and soul into your games have to pay the price for corporate greed?
I suppose on bright spot is that at least the affected employees will get severance packages, so they aren’t being totally left out in the cold. But I can’t help but remind myself that this cycle will continue to happen, and have to question whether it should be considered normal or healthy for the industry.
This idea that companies within the games industry can continually grow and focus on profit is poisonous, not just to consumers, but to employees as well. From unexpected firings and insanely common crunch marathons, the games industry has a major problem with respecting its labor force, and that needs to change soon.
Anyway, our best wishes to those affected by these layoffs, here’s to hoping for a better tomorrow.