Activision Blizzard Posts Record 2018 Sales, Lays Off Almost 800 Employees
Picture the scene. You work for a huge, world-famous games company with an incredible heritage. That company's CEO has just announced that it has achieved record sales results in 2018, and that it's expanding a number of its teams - people, like yourself, responsible for making a number of this company's games the successes they've proven to be. Successes that have, in no indirect fashion, filled the pockets of the company's top brass - you've just seen a new chief financial officer arrive with a cool $15 million signing-on bonus.
That... that is a pretty amazing scene, isn't it? You'd be thinking: record results, money flowing into new recruits, teams being bolstered ready for the ramping up of key projects. What a great place to be at. Sunshine and rainbows, all the way to the bank.
Only: this company is Activision Blizzard. And, oh no, rather than celebrate the essential contributions of some 8% of its workforce, the company is actually laying that slice of its employees off. See ya, thanks for all the graft and that, here's a handshake and a hand-out, good luck out there.
Yes, indeed. Despite Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announcing in the company's earning report for the final quarter of 2018 that it'd seen results that "were the best in our history", the name(s) behind the likes of Call of Duty, CandyCrush, Overwatch, Diablo, Warcraft and more is shedding a hefty portion of its staff. And when your company runs to some 9,600 individuals, that 8% represents a lot of pissed-off, now-ex-employees.
Around 770 members of staff are losing their jobs as a result of this restructuring - activity which also, longer term, hopes to increase the size of development teams on key franchises like Call of Duty, Diablo and Hearthstone by around 20%.
The job losses seem to stem from the fact, as stated by Kotick, that Activision Blizzard "didn't realise [its] full potential" in 2018, despite the fantastic sales of Black Ops IIII, which made $500 million in its first weekend. So, yes, the numbers were high - but not as high as they needed to be. As a result, departments that aren't "meeting expectations" are to be "de-prioritised". Blizzard company president J Allen Brack added that cuts were necessary as some teams were "out of proportion with our current release slate".
In 2017, Kotick made over $28.6 million (with almost $20 million in stock value), over 300 times what the median Activision employee took home. For joining Activision Blizzard in January 2019, chief financial officer Dennis Durkin received a bonus of $15 million, including over $11 million in stocks.
For some contrast here, which you can interpret however you like... In 2011, late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata - alongside many directors at the company - took a pay cut of 50% to help steady what was a pretty shaky ship at the time. After the Wii U launched to poor sales, Iwata further reduced his salary in 2014, telling shareholders it was his duty to "revive our business momentum". Come June 2015, the company was profitable again. Iwata died of cancer in July 2015, his wage reduction almost certainly keeping many Nintendo employees in work during a tough time for its bottom line.
Looking ahead to 2019, Activision Blizzard has some big titles lined up, including a new Call of Duty title - rumoured to be a return to Modern Warfare - and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fuelled, a remake of the 1999 kart-racer. Overwatch will be on the receiving end of "a lot of new ideas", and there's also Diablo Immortal to look forward to, which was met with such a positive reaction when it was announced at BlizzCon 2018. All employees made redundant will get a severance package covering healthcare benefits, profit sharing, and support for finding further employment.
Featured Image Credit: Activision Blizzard