Activision Blizzard announced that all “temporary and temporary” quality inspectors in its Activision Publishing and Blizzard divisions, a group of “nearly 1,100 people,” will transition from contractors to full-time employees on July 1. The company also said hourly wages for most of these positions will increase to at least $20, and new hires will receive “full company benefits” and be eligible for its bonus program.
“At Activision Blizzard, we’re bringing more content to players in our franchises than ever before,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in an email to PC Gamer. “As a result, we We’re improving how our teams work together to develop our games and provide the best experience for our players. We have ambitious plans for the future, and our QA team members are a key part of our development efforts.”
The move comes after a July 2021 lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sparked employee unrest alleging widespread harassment, discrimination and a “fraternity boy” culture at the company. That has led to calls for the removal of CEO Bobby Kotick and the ongoing union effort, which kicked off last year when the QA team at Call of Duty developer Raven Software resigned in protest of a planned round of layoffs of contract workers. Activision fought back but failed to stem the tide, with the Game Workers Alliance — the first video game industry alliance of major North American studios — announced in January.
One issue is that Raven Software’s QA staff “will not receive a base pay raise due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. Bloomberg (opens in new tab). National Labor Relations Board prohibit (opens in new tab) Providing benefits to employees “during a union organizing campaign to induce employees to vote against unions” is likely to be the duty mentioned. If the union is recognized, Activision Blizzard will be barred from changing pay without haggling with union representatives; if that happens, base pay is sure to be one of the biggest talking points in the first contract negotiations.
Activision Blizzard chose not to voluntarily recognize the union, but it could still be formalized through the National Labor Relations Board. Microsoft, which announced its intention to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in January, later said it “would not stand in the way” if the union was eventually recognized.
Converting all Raven QA employees to full-time was one of the demands the strikers made during the first shutdown, but the company-wide changes this time around don’t stop there: Activision Blizzard confirms that the 1,100 converted QA positions exceeded 500 It was previously committed from contract to full-time jobs. The transition will increase Activision Publishing’s full-time workforce by 25 percent.
“Call of Duty has expanded and evolved over the past two years,” Activision Publishing chief operating officer Josh Taub said in an email to employees. “Our development cycle has gone from annual releases to an ‘always-on’ model. In response to greater engagement, we have increased our live service business across all platforms. Our offering now includes season tickets, operators and available Great content in our store. We’ve also increased our studio staff and support, as well as exciting new plans for mobile.
“In light of these changes, and as we look ahead to ambitious plans for the future, we are further refining the way our development teams work together. QA has been and will continue to be critical to our development success. We have an amazing QA team A place where we work hard to ensure our players have the best gaming experience – thank you!”
Taub added that “additional support” for QA would still be brought in from outside companies as needed. Blizzard boss Mike Ybarra also sent a message to employees about the change.
“Our ability to deliver great games at the level of ‘Blizzard quality’ players expect is critical to ensuring we exceed player expectations,” Ybarra wrote. “Over the past six months I have had the opportunity to listen and talk to our QA team members, we have had several meetings and I have outlined my philosophy on contract/full-time roles. I would like to thank everyone who helped Educate me and express their views on how we can make Blizzard the best player-centric game studio. We all know that quality assurance is an important part of our success in ensuring the best gaming experience.”
The Game Workers Union and the ABK Workers Union (a broader group of Activision Blizzard employees) have yet to issue a statement on the announcement – we’ve reached out for comment and will update this article when we learn more.