Workers at Activision Blizzard Studio Raven Software Walk Out, Protesting Layoffs

Workers at Activision Blizzard Studio Raven Software Walk Out, Protesting Layoffs

Embattled video game publisher Activision Blizzard is facing its third work stoppage in the last five months as employees at its subsidiary studio Raven Software walked out to protest layoffs of its quality assurance testers.

Employees have staged other walkouts in recent months to call attention to Activision’s handling of ongoing complaints of rampant gender inequality and sexual harassment within the company. This has happened in tandem with calls from employees and activist investors for CEO Bobby Kotick to resign over his handling of the ongoing scandal.

About 60 full and part-time workers engaged in a work stoppage and virtual walkout that began the morning of Dec. 6.

Activision laid off 20 contractors and temporary employees across its studios when it announced the news late last week that some contractors would be promoted to full-time while others wouldn’t get their contracts renewed. The Washington Post first reported that a dozen contractors working for Raven Software doing quality assurance testing on games were let go.

In a letter to Activision, Raven Studios workers said several staffers had recently relocated to Wisconsin without help from the company in anticipation of regular in-person work, but were told their contracts ended.

“‘Call of Duty: Warzone’, which recently announced the release of a new map and integration with the ‘Call of Duty: Vanguard’ title, earns $5.2 million per day,” the workers’ letter noted.

Raven’s employees are demanding Activision offer all the employees full-time employment, including those who were laid off. Read their letter to Activision in its entirety here.

“Activision Publishing is growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources,” the company said in a statement provided Monday afternoon by spokesperson Rich George.

“We are converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months. Unfortunately, as part of this change, we also have notified 20 temporary workers across studios that their contracts would not be extended,” Activision added.

Raven is a studio owned by Activision Publishing, which is itself a business division operated by Activision Blizzard. The company added that every employee affected by the cuts was a contractor, and noted that since contracts are just not being extended it was technically not a layoff.

Activision also said in a statement it supports the employees’ decision to walk out, echoing similar statements it gave at the time of past demonstrations. “We support their right to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation,” the company's statement said.

Some workers at Treyarch, another studio that’s long worked on development of the “Call of Duty” games, were made full-time today, according to ABetterABK, the workers’ group advocating for changes at the company. In a tweet, the group wrote “in light of recent events, there is no excuse for the company to lay off 30% of Raven's QA department while simultaneously making all Treyarch TEA's full time employees.”

Raven Studios is based in Wisconsin and does vital quality assurance testing for one of Activision’s biggest franchises, “Call of Duty.” It recently was a critical part of shipping the company’s newest installment in the series, “Call of Duty: Vanguard,” which released Nov. 5.

In its November earnings report Activision said “Call of Duty” was one of its most popular franchises and helped the company soar to over $2 billion in revenue within a three-month period. The company’s third quarter earnings saw revenue up 6% annually.

The timing of the walkout is notable; it is happening just as quality assurance testers are needed most: 48 hours before the launch of the a map in the massively popular multiplayer “Call of Duty: Warzone” game, which will be added along with a slew of cosmetic items and weapons as part of Activison’s regular updates on Dec. 8.

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