The QA team was downsized at Call of Duty devs Raven Software, so the remaining employees planned a walkout in protest. The solidarity action is attempting to get the developer to keep the people employed. This is a pretty common practice, namely treating quality assurance as disposable. Though these kinds of post-shipment layoffs are pretty common in the video game industry, the tenor looks to have shifted.
“The Raven QA team and other members of Raven’s staff will be walking out with a singular demand,” said Raven Software workers in a statement to the press. “Every member of the QA team, including those terminated on Friday, must be offered full-time positions.” According to a report from Polygon, the workers are planning the demonstration, “with the continued success of the studio at the forefront of their mind[s].”
All of the workers directly affected by the layoff were contract workers, basically meaning they have little to no job security. As the increasing corporatization of the video game industry took hold, this only became more common industry-wide. Activision Blizzard later responded to this report with the following statement:
Activision Publishing is growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources. We are converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months. Unfortunately, as part of this change, we also have notified 20 temporary workers across studios that their contracts would not be extended.
It’s unclear exactly why those 20 couldn’t have been the first ones offered a more long-term position. Also, some are unclear what this timeframe of “coming months” will actually turn into. It could be years of continued abuse and layoffs before this policy bears fruit.
The workers involved in the matter said that changes had been coming—but they didn’t expect this. One source described working conditions pre-layoffs as “five weeks of overtime and before an anticipated end of the year crunch.” Management at the studio has transferred a meager portion of the saved costs from the layoffs into minor raises. Remaining QA staff Raven Software would receive an increase in benefits coverage, and an extra $1.50 an hour, at the cost of their coworker’s jobs.
Activision acquired Raven Software in 1997, and has been using them as a support studio for their mainline franchises for years. And this is far from the only controversy befalling Activision Blizzard in recent months. The company has been under heavy fire for its repeated ignorance of widespread abuse. Leading to employee walkouts, as well as calls for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick. The nepotistic board fired back by saying they stand by Kotick, despite his proven refusal to confront and fire abusive staff. Employees also protested low pay and a lack of paid time off for many.
This all comes after Activision made a reported $3 billion from Call of Duty in 2020, and refused to offer better pay and a substantive solution to various issues. And let’s not forget that Activision Blizzard has become infamous for mass layoffs over the years.