Rumblings about low pay, poor morale and toxic corporate culture have been around in the games industry for decades. With sustained periods of crunch becoming more pervasive, while low pay and high costs of living force employees into working unhealthy hours, the games industry could be headed for either disaster or a period of rebirth. And while some companies are making outward commitments to combat these negative influences, others will invariably fall behind the curve of progress. And it looks like it’s time for one major company to shape up or ship out.
Activision Blizzard is a company that’s been under fire a lot recently, mostly due to aforementioned toxic corporate culture. As many sources have reported, the company laid off nearly 800 employees despite having a record year in terms of revenue in 2018. The company even hired a new CFO who was awarded a benefits packaged valued at roughly $15 million. CEO Bobby Kotick got hit with plenty of heat over this news, leading to a lot of uncertainty about the future of the company.
This downsizing hit the eSports leagues for games like Heroes of the Storm, as well a huge portion of the workforce dedicated to that entire game. The problems kept on mounting when the gaming giant announced that they would be removing a significant portion of development support from Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard also announced the cancellation of their eSports tournaments, Heroes Global Championship and Heroes of the Dorm. The game is still supported, but has undeniably entered a sunset period.
And with the rocky prospects for the next year laid bare, employees are seemingly seeing the writing on the wall. Kim Phan, who served as Global Director of Esports for Blizzard left a while back. This departure was followed by Activision Blizzard esports CEO Pete Vlastelica, who himself just took on the role after leaving Fox Sports. And then there’s the development that Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzar left Blizzard to pursue an opportunity with Epic Games. And while the reasons are not known, the idea behind them seems crystal clear.
Whatever these departures mean for the future, there’s one thing that’s pretty clear. Professional play in Overwatch and Call of Duty may be in for a real bumpy ride over the next year.