One of the studios responsible for Call of Duty’s success is laying off QA testers who are reportedly paid $17 an hour for their work on the franchise that Activision Blizzard claims will bring in $3 billion in 2020. According to Kotaku and The Washington Post, Raven Software, known for its work on Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and CoD: Warzone, has laid off one-third of its contract QA testers.
Austin O’Brien, Raven’s Associate Community Manager, stated that team members were being summoned to individual meetings to learn whether or not they would still have a job on January 28th. So far, the company has reportedly laid off roughly one-third of its QA testers, or about a dozen people, but more could be on the way. According to the Post, an anonymous Raven contractor stated that “everyone was told, ‘you did nothing wrong,’ after receiving the bad news.”
According to A Better ABK, an employee advocacy group, many of the employees relocated to Wisconsin for the job without assistance from Activision Blizzard. O’Brien also tweeted that the company had promised team members raises after Activision (Raven’s parent company) completed a pay restructure and that this may be coming true in a cruel way: According to Kotaku, those who can stay will receive a pay raise from $17 an hour to $18.50 an hour, as well as improved benefits and bonuses.
Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier tweeted that some testers he spoke with won’t know their status until next week, which means they’ll have to endure an uncomfortable weekend before learning whether they’ll have to spend the holiday’s job hunting. One QA tester for the studio tweeted that they wouldn’t know until Tuesday, and Kotaku reported that the layoffs were learned through word of mouth rather than an official announcement.
According to Kotaku, Activision Blizzard has a history of laying off employees even when business is booming. After CEO Bobby Kotick announced that the company’s 2018 financial results were the best in the company’s history, the company laid off approximately 8% of its employees in 2019.
Kotick reportedly received 155 million dollars in June after a shareholder vote — a few months earlier, the company laid off around 50 event management employees, giving them three months’ severance and $200 Battle.net gift cards. According to Gamesindustry.biz, the second-largest game launch in 2021 was Call of Duty: Vanguard, a game developed by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision.
Activision Blizzard has recently come under fire for having poor working conditions and failing to respond to repeated employee claims of abuse and sexual assault. There are also allegations that Kotick was aware of the problems for years and had a history of harassment. In less than a week, the company will release a Call of Duty: Warzone expansion that will tie into Vanguard.