Almost 40 Raven Software testers primarily working on Call of Duty: Warzone have staged a walk out to protest the abrupt laying off of about 30% of their colleagues.
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After speaking to current employees, The Washington Post reports that Activision Blizzard has laid off “at least a dozen” Raven Software contractors working in quality assurance amid studio restructuring.
Further, the studio would meeting with contracters between December 3rd to 8th to inform them if they were being promoted or would be laid off by January 28th. One third of quality assurance testers were laid off at the time of the report, with some claiming that they had been terminated despite being told they had done nothing wrong.
One former Raven Software QA tester, Evan Avillanoza, told The Washington Post that when they were laid off, their project lead was not informed about the layoffs.
“Our team is destroyed and absolutely no one is going to want to work even if they got promoted,” said Avillanoza. “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 also supposedly told quality assurance testers at certain subsidiary studios that, since the developer had ended their contract with staffing partner Tapfin, they would be expanding their contract with Volt, thus making said testers Volt employees by default.
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Austin O’Brien, Associate Community Manager at Raven Software, opened up on Twitter about how the layoffs were affecting staff and had left him gutted.
“My friends in QA at Raven were promised, for months, that Activision was working towards a pay restructure to increase their wages,” O’Brien tweeted. “Today, one by one, valuable members of the team were called into meetings and told they were being let go.”
He added, “These people were asked to relocate to Madison, WI to work here. Now they are out of a job on January 28th. Our QA team does incredible work but this will not only increase their workload but crush morale. If any industry friends have open positions, please share them.”
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O’Brien continued, “If it isn’t clear, this is bulls–t. It’s unfair to these people to string them along, promising something better, and then let them go. I am infuriated right now.”
This anger was clearly felt by other staff, including the ABK Worker’s Alliance.
A de facto union representing Activision Blizzard employees who have spoken out and demanded change amidst the company’s ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits and continuing controversies. The Alliance announced a walkout [1, 2], as they had done twice previously at Activision Blizzard offices. Their statement also included allegations that the layoffs may have been unnecessary.
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In addition to reiterating the information included in The Washington Post’s report and O’Brien’s tweet, the group asserted that hired employees were required to undertake the aforementioned relocation without any assistance from Raven Software, being reassured all the while that a consistent workload awaited them.
On December 3rd, just three days prior to their walkout, the group explained, “Many of these employees relocated for this work without ABK assistance, placing them in financial and housing crisis in an area with limited options in this industry.”
The Alliance statement claims that the layoffs came after give weeks of overtime, and before an anticipated end of year crunch. They also claim that a top-down promise of incoming “positive devlopmental changes” was used to further delay promotions and raises that were promised for around March 2021.
Those who had been lucky enough to be promoted received only $1.50 per hour raises, taking them to a total hourly rate of $18.50.
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Further, according to the Alliance, the 12 individuals already let go by the time of their statement were “considered by their colleagues to be essential to the everyday functioning of the Raven QA team.”
This QA team is said to have been mainly working on the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone, which recently announced a new map, and integrating the game with Call of Duty: Vanguard.
The ABK Worker’s Alliance claims the game earns $5.2 million a day, while the Washington Post reported that Activision Blizzard stated in an November earnings call that Warzone made over $2 billion in revenue in three months.
As such, in 2020, research firm Super Data claims that Warzone makes an estimated $2 billion a year, further noting that any disruption to the release of regular new content would threaten the title’s stability.
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The ABK Worker’s Alliance also announced that the walkout out would come with the demand that “every member of the QA team, including those terminated on Friday, must be offered full time positions.”
“Those participating in this demonstration do so with the continued success of the studio at the forefront of their mind,” the Alliance stated. “The Raven QA department is essential to the day-to-day functioning of the studio as a whole. Terminating the contracts of high performing testers in a time of consistent work and profit puts the health of the studio at risk.”
Despite the union-style tactics, the Alliance states their end goal is “to ensure the continued growth of Raven as a studio and to foster a positive community for everyone who works there.” Prior walk have resulted in Activision Blizzard promising more diverse hiring, and even CEO Bobby Kotick stating to senior staff he would consider resigning if he fails to solve the “cultural problems” at the company “with speed.”
In a statement emailed to Bloomberg on December 6th, Activision confirmed that they had ended contracts with 20 temporary workers across its studios as part of restructuring efforts that will convert 500 temporary workers to full time.
Tester Alex Dupont revealed he was not authorized by Activision to speak to reporters, but spoke to Bloomberg anyway, telling the oulet, “My fellow employees are losing their jobs for arbitrary reasons.”
Though the initial walkout took place as scheduled on November 6th, ABK announced the following day that “workers from Raven QA are walking out for the second day in a row.”
“They are joined by workers from QATX, QAMN, and Blizzard QA,” the group explained. “These workers are standing in solidarity with the statement Raven QA put forward yesterday.”
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