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.
- SEC Investigates Activision Blizzard - dot.LA ›
- Read Activision Blizzard Employees' Letter to CEO Kotick - dot.LA ›
- Everything You Need to Know About the Activision Blizzard Walkout ›
- Blizzard Employee Reveals New Sexual Assault Accusation - dot.LA ›
- Activision Blizzard Data Show Leadership is Primarily White - dot.LA ›
Walt Disney Company is restructuring its operations to prioritize streaming as the pandemic reshuffles the entertainment industry.
With the new structure, there will be three content groups: movies, sports and general entertainment such as television shows. Another arm will determine on which platforms content will be distributed.
"Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it," said CEO Bob Chapek in a statement released on Monday. The distribution group will be led by Kareem Daniel, former head of the company's consumer products business.
Walt Disney Studios co-chairs Alan F. Horn and Alan Bergman will oversee Studios, the division focused on movies and theatrical franchises. Media Networks Chairman Peter Rice will oversee General Entertainment, including television series and long form content for streaming and cable. ESPN head Jimmy Pitaro, will run the Sports group
All four content group leaders and Daniel will report to CEO Bob Chapek.
The move comes as the entertainment giant continues to be pummeled by the pandemic. Last month, the company announced that it would layoff 28,000 workers from its theme parks. Disneyland in Southern California remains closed and attendance at Disney World in Florida is lagging. Movie theaters across the country have also been closed or not at full capacity.
But Disney has found success in streaming. In August, the company announced that it had 60 million subscribers to its Disney Plus streaming service. Add in ESPN+ and Hulu, and the company's total subscriber count now tops 100 million.Like other studios, Disney has opted to shift theatrical releases online, moving "Mulan" to Disney+ and additional for $30. Disney also recently announced the Pixar film "Soul" will be released on the platform on Dec. 25.
- Disney Loses $1.4 Billion in Operating Income Due To COVID-19 ... ›
- bob-chapek - dot.LA ›
- What Mulan 2020 May Mean for Disney+ and Movie Distribution ... ›
- Kevin Mayer Leaves Disney for TikTok - dot.LA ›
- Disney Plus Surpasses 60 Million Subscribers - dot.LA ›
- disney-plus - dot.LA ›
- Disney Moves Aggressively into Streaming on Disney Plus - dot.LA ›
HopSkipDrive, the ridesharing company for kids and one of Los Angeles' most visible startups, laid off staff Tuesday as the pandemic ravaged growth plans.
Co-founder and CEO Joanna McFarland would not say how many of the 100-plus employees she laid off but told dot.LA that after delivering the news to the group affected over Zoom, managers held one-on-one meetings to review benefits and severance pay. Several departments were impacted including operations, branding, sales and customer support.
The latest round of layoffs follow an earlier one in March in which the company cut 10 percent of its staff, according to layoffs.fyi, a website tracking job loss.
"One of HopSkipDrive's core values is 'feel it', meaning empathy," McFarland said. "It was very important to us to show empathy to all employees and to communicate directly with both employees who were impacted and those that were not impacted."
The six-year old company, that's raised roughly $98 million, spent the summer building COVID-safe standards to prepare for an abnormal school year. Then, one after the other, school districts across the country changed plans from in-person or hybrid classes to a completely virtual curriculum.
"Schools closing has a direct and significant impact on our business," McFarland told dot.LA by email.
"These reductions are not in any way reflective of work performance but were unfortunately necessary due to the impact COVID-19 has had on our business, like many others," McFarland wrote on LinkedIn in announcing the decision.
Companies have been careful about letting go of workers remotely after startups like the e-scooter service Bird soured relationships with former employees after a poorly planned layoff round.
McFarland said that demand for this service will surge once schools reopen because it offers socially-distanced, safe transportation for schools looking to limit bus capacity.
"Schools will need to prioritize the students we primarily serve more than ever — students with special needs, students experiencing homelessness and students in the foster care system," she said. "These are the students who are likely to have the biggest learning gaps due to Covid."
LAUSD begins its entirely virtual school year on August 18.
"Schools will come back, and when they do, we are poised to take off. We will be in a position to create more opportunities for kids, for CareDrivers, for families and for our team than ever before."
Until that happens, McFarland says the company will continue operations with its partners in markets that have opened schools. It'll also support seniors with mobility needs and partners looking to use the service to fulfill meal and technology deliveries.
McFarland and two other L.A. working moms founded HopSkipDrive in 2014 to help parents juggling hectic schedules. Unlike rideshare companies that bar underage riders, HopSkipDrive was designed for children as young as six.
In February, HopSkipDrive announced a $22 million funding round to expand its operations in new cities, dot.LA reported. Months before, in November of 2019, the company relocated its office to ROW DTLA and began a sizable hiring push across departments.
The service, now offered in 14 markets across eight states and Washington D.C., is expanding to Midland, Texas this coming school year to support Midland Independent School District.
- HopSkipDrive Will Layoff Over 100 Employees - dot.LA ›
- How Working From Home Challenges Women and How To Succeed ... ›
- Joanna McFarland, CEO, President and Co-Founder of HopSkipDrive ›
- HopSkipDrive, Ridesharing Company for Kids, Doubles Fundraising ... ›
- HopSkipDrive Is Preparing for the Pandemic's End - dot.LA ›
- HopSkipDrive Raises $25M From Energy Impact Partnersl, More - dot.LA ›