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Activision Blizzard lays off ‘Call of Duty’ contractors

(Washington Post illustration; Raven Software)

Activision Blizzard has laid off at least a dozen Raven Software contractors who test games for quality assurance as part of a studio restructuring. More contractors will be informed over the next few days if they have been laid off too, current employees told The Washington Post.

Raven Software, an Activision Blizzard-owned studio that produces games like “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War” and “Call of Duty: Warzone,” is meeting with contractors from Friday, Dec. 3 to Dec. 8 to tell them if they are being promoted or terminated on Jan. 28, employees said. About a third of the studio’s quality assurance testers have been informed they are laid off so far.

Workers that are promoted to full-time will receive $1.50 per hour raises, moving to an hourly rate of $18.50. They’ll also receive more benefits and bonuses, employees said they were told.

So, you worked on a video game. You might not appear in the credits.

“I feel hurt and betrayed," said one Raven Software contractor who was informed on Friday he had been laid off. He and other Raven Software contractors spoke with The Post on the condition of anonymity, stating a desire to continue work in the video game industry. “The majority of individuals who have had their meetings were fired. ... Everyone was told, ‘You did nothing wrong,’ after being given the bad news."

Evan Avillanoza, another Raven QA tester, was told on Friday they were laid off and said their project lead had been kept in the dark about the layoffs. Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to comment.

“Our team is destroyed and absolutely no one is going to want to work even if they got promoted," Avillanoza said before. "I was looking to leave because of the reputation Activision has had lately and I don’t want to support the company any longer. ... It’s an embarrassment working for Activision, in my opinion.”

Activision Blizzard made over $2 billion in revenue within three months, it said in a November earnings call. The company has recently been under fire on several fronts however, initially stemming from a gender discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Its CEO, Bobby Kotick, was the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal report that stated he knew about sexual misconduct claims at the video game company but failed to inform its board of directors.

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January 28 is the last day for contractors who are being terminated, but they have the option of exiting the company earlier, which some are choosing to do.

The company told quality assurance testers at certain studios across the company Friday that Activision Blizzard has ended its contract with staffing partner Tapfin and will expand its contract with Volt, another staffing provider, so that current testers at some studios will now become Volt employees.

Quality assurance testers across the games industry have spoken up in the past about dismal work conditions, an unwillingness from companies to promote them to full-time roles, the volatility of the job, as well as the stigma that their jobs are simply playing video games. Testers check games for bugs and glitches, often playing specific parts of games ad nauseum, and are often paid state minimum wage.

“Most Activision employees know we are expendable, but whenever they lay off folks, it’s just a big reminder,” said a quality assurance tester for Activision who has not been told if she is part of the layoffs.