Activision Blizzard sacks 8% of its workforce despite “record” revenues

Activision Blizzard has laid off 800 people, a total 8% of the company’s entire workforce after ~only~ making an extra $100 million in profit last year.

As retrenched employees began to tweet that they were out of a job, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told shareholders the company had experienced a record year, raking in an extra $100 million in profit.

The company’s fourth-quarter earnings report indicates the company made $7.26B in physical and digital sales, up from $7.16B in 2017. Despite the $100M growth, Kotick explained to investors that this was not in line with the company’s expectations.

“While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realize our full potential,” says Kotick in the report.

During an open Q&A in today’s investor call, Kotick called the layoffs a “top-five career-difficult moment for me personally.”

Despite calling its 2018 fiscal results underwhelming, the sacking of 800 “non-development” staff will apparently allow the company to expand development on current titles like Overwatch and Call of Duty by 20%. The fourth quarter earnings report lays this out: Funding for this push will be achieved by “de-prioritizing initiatives that are not meeting expectations and reducing certain non-development and administrative-related costs across the business.”

The layoffs mark the latest in a string of high profile departures for Blizzard in recent years, from founders Chris Metzen and Mike Morhaime. Morhaime departed as Blizzard CEO in October 2018 and was replaced by J. Allen Brack, though Brack’s position is listed as President. Late last year, Activision Blizzard fired CFO Spencer Neumann who was quickly scooped up by Netflix in a similar role. A week later, Blizzard’s own CFO Amrita Ahuja was snaffled by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s mobile payment company Square. In December, Blizzard scaled back production on Heroes of the Storm, reassigning the bulk of its development staff to other teams internally.

No company executives are among the 800 made jobless. The staff at Activision Blizzard are not unionised. There was nothing any of them could do to stop this from happening.

Our take: We hope Bobby Kotick never gets another good night’s sleep in his life. Those people didn’t deserve to lose their jobs. We’d be willing to bet Kotick never offered his in their stead. This can’t keep happening. The games industry needs unionisation now more than ever.

David Smith

David Smith is the former games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.