On Tuesday, quality assurance testers in Texas and Minnesota, as well as some working at Blizzard in Irvine, California will join Raven Software contractors in solidarity, and in protest of the total of 20 people that Activision Blizzard laid off as of Monday. As part of the walkout, which has no set end date, workers are demanding that all Raven quality assurance contractors, including the ones laid off Friday, receive full-time positions and that the company reverses the past week’s layoffs at Raven.
The walkout is taking place virtually, starting at 10:15 a.m. Eastern time and across social media with the hashtag #WeAreRaven. Raven workers sent management notifications that they are out of office Tuesday “in solidarity with my teammates in QA who were let go arbitrarily.”
The stoppage began on Monday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time and included both contractors and full-time employees. In response, Activision Blizzard wrote in a Monday statement to The Washington Post, “We support their right to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation.”
Raven studio head Brian Raffel told employees in a studio-wide meeting Monday that he didn’t consider the terminations to be layoffs; instead he described them as temporary employment agreements that weren’t renewed, according to people who were present at the meeting. Raffel apologized and said that the communication could have been clearer, and that the meetings to hand out terminations took longer than expected due to having to meet one on one with individuals.
In regard to the layoffs, Activision Blizzard said in a Monday statement that it was “growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources,” and that it ended contracts with 20 temporary workers, including the 12 from Raven, across its studios as part of that change. The company also said that about 500 contractors would become full-time employees in the coming months.
“It feels like Activision’s toxic culture is starting to bleed into Raven. The people who were let go seem to have been chosen completely at random, and the rest of us have survivor’s guilt because we know our teammates deserve to still be here. We’re all just incredibly heartbroken,” said a Raven quality assurance tester who is still with the company and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Friday’s layoffs, which affected a dozen contractors at the Wisconsin-based studio who test games for quality assurance purposes, were billed as part of a studio restructuring. More contractors will be informed by Wednesday about the status of their employment, current employees told The Washington Post. A third of the studio’s quality assurance testers have been laid off so far.
“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,” Raven Software quality assurance contractors wrote in a joint news release.
Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s biggest gaming companies and publisher of popular franchises like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, made over $2 billion in revenue within three months, it said in a November earnings call. The company has recently come 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. After the news broke, more than 100 Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout at the Irvine, Calif., campus of Blizzard Entertainment, one of the major studios that make up the Activision Blizzard family.
Over 1,800 workers have signed a petition calling for Kotick’s resignation, a call to action later echoed by a group of Activision Blizzard shareholders with 4.8 million shares between them. Six state treasurers wrote to the company’s board of directors to express their concern over Thanksgiving weekend.