Last month, during a livestream of the game Path of Exile, Twitch user thejunglequeen, real name Divo Brevik, was joined by her husband, Diablo series creator and former Blizzard North president, David Brevik. Brevik, who had just returned from a social occasion, chose to sit in on the stream and engage with his wife and her audience. After it was revealed that Brevik had attended a dinner and a poker game with some of his cohorts who are still employed at Blizzard, the topic of conversation turned towards the various problems and issues that he has seen coming out of his former company.
His first topic of criticism was Blizzard’s treatment of employees and their compensation:
“Today, or yesterday, they announced a change to the Blizzard profit sharing program. In that it’s gone. And so I would suspect, given that Morhaime resigned a couple days ago, they resigned over this!”
“There’s public knowledge that the employees of Blizzard are not going to make as much money. Like, a lot less money, than they were. So Blizzard put in place, on the whole, were paid below market salaries. Because they had a bonus program that afforded them the ability to make-up for it. Lots of people made decent money through this bonus program. […] So all the Blizzard employees are now making shitty money. Worse than they did by a longshot. A lot of Blizzard employees made double what they normally did through the bonus program. So removing that means they make a lot less money, and therefore I predict, we will see a mass exodus from Blizzard.”
“So the question now becomes, as a new developer […] Why would you work at Blizzard? If you’re trying to make a name for yourself, if you’re new to the industry, if you’re a midlevel or below designer, why in the world would you work for Blizzard? You’re not gonna get notoriety, you’re not getting profits now, you’re not getting paid, you’re getting below average wages. What would be the incentive to work there?”
In the streaming Twitch chat, one user named ‘thunderjim’ asked Brevik “is it Activision screwing things up”. To this point, Brevik then discussed the issues concerning the strong corporatization push by Blizzard:
“I don’t even think Blizzard today is what Blizzard used to be. But Blizzard 3 years from now, won’t even be Blizzard today. Activision is taking over. Activision is winning at this slow game. Activision is exiling all of the Blizzard executives. Metzen, Pardo, Morhaime. There’s a lot in the last couple years, of the most influential people at Blizzard. The top 5 most influential people at Blizzard, 3 of them are gone. Maybe even 4. It will be interesting to see what Blizzard comes up with. I know some of the things they have planned, and we’ll see how it goes. But if it doesn’t go well, will Blizzard even be close to the same?”
“Particularly, the people above Blizzard, that are profit happy. ‘Oh my God, Fortnite is making a f****** shitton!’. Overwatch isn’t Fornite. Why have you wronged us? Okay, we’re going to get rid of the profit sharing program, we don’t like this. We don’t like the fact that low-level employees make decent money at Blizzard. We’re going to get rid of this program because we need more profits to increase our stock price and improve our shareholders and the elite 1% of the company. And so, therefore, you don’t like this very much Mike Morhaime? Well too f****** bad, you’re gone! Now we pass”
“There’s no incentive for them to raise the people’s salaries. Everybody at Blizzard considers it a privilege to work at Blizzard. Or at least, 90% plus. (Divo: Right, so they’ll take less money because it’s Blizzard) Right, because ‘it’s a f****** blessing that I work there’.”
From Brevik’s own admission, during the livestream he was intoxicated and that he and his wife, “we don’t know if any of this is the case, but you can easily imagine this!”, but evidence supports the speculation and claims made during the livestream.
In October, Blizzard saw the cancellation of their profit-sharing program as well as the sudden and shocking departure of Blizzard Co-Founder and President Michael Morhaime. In November, a mobile entry in the series known as Diablo: Immortal was announced to the dismay and anger of fans. Despite the vocal backlash against Diablo: Immortal, Blizzard has also just announced that they will be working additional on mobile games based on most of their IPs.
Brevik is not the only former Blizzard employee to publicly speak out against the company’s current direction. Former Diablo 2 Producer Mark Kern recently criticized Blizzard for being ‘out of touch with gamers’. Brevik and Kern may be vindicated as audiences continue to see mounting evidence that a focus on corporatization and shallow monetization of properties has become a priority for the legendary game development studio.