At least 30 workers at Raven Software, an Activision Blizzard-owned game studio, plan to stop work on Monday in protest of their parent company laying off 12 of the studio’s quality assurance testers Friday. The virtual walkout would be the third work stoppage at Activision Blizzard in five months since the video game company was sued in late July over sexual harassment and misconduct claims. The stoppage will begin at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time and will include both contractors and full-time employees.
As part of the walkout, Raven Software workers are demanding that all quality assurance contractors, including the ones laid off Friday, receive full-time positions. In a statement to The Washington Post, Activision Blizzard wrote, “We support their right to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation.”
In regard to the layoffs, Activision Blizzard said in a Monday statement that it was “growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources,” and that it ended contracts with 20 temporary workers across its studios as part of that change. The company also said that about 500 contractors would become full-time employees in the coming months.
“It feels like Activision’s toxic culture is starting to bleed into Raven. The people who were let go seem to have been chosen completely at random, and the rest of us have survivor’s guilt because we know our teammates deserve to still be here. We’re all just incredibly heartbroken,” said a Raven quality assurance tester who is still with the company.
Friday’s layoffs, which affected a dozen contractors at the Wisconsin-based studio who test games for quality assurance purposes, were billed as part of a studio restructuring. More contractors will be informed by Wednesday about the status of their employment, current employees told The Washington Post. A third of the studio’s quality assurance testers have been laid off so far.
“Several of those who were let go recently relocated to Wisconsin in anticipation of the return to in-person work. They did so without relocation assistance from Raven, due to reassurances from the studio that their workload was consistent,” Raven Software quality assurance contractors wrote in a joint statement.
Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s biggest gaming companies and publisher of popular franchises like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, made over $2 billion in revenue within three months, it said in a November earnings call. The company has recently come under fire on several fronts, however, initially stemming from a gender discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Its CEO, Bobby Kotick, was the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal report that stated he knew about sexual misconduct claims at the video game company but failed to inform its board of directors. After the news broke, more than 100 Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout at the Irvine, Calif., campus of Blizzard Entertainment, one of the major studios that make up the Activision Blizzard family.
At least 1,000 workers have signed a petition calling for Kotick’s resignation, a call to action later echoed by a group of Activision Blizzard shareholders with 4.8 million shares between them.