Call of Duty: Warzone devs walkout following reported QA layoffs

A plane is flying close to a hangar, being shot at by an AA gun in the Caldera map in Warzone.

A group of Raven Software employees are walking out to protest Activision Blizzard’s reported decision to lay off a dozen quality assurance staffers, which most notably work on Call of Duty: Warzone. As shared to Twitter by Axios’ Stephen Totilo, the group released a statement calling for the 12 game testers to be offered full-time jobs alongside the rest of the Raven QA team.

“These individuals were let go in ‘good standing’, meaning they had not underperformed or committed any fireable offence,” the statement reads. “The majority of those who were not let go on December 3 are still unsure about the status of their employment. These personnel cuts come after five weeks of overtime, and before an anticipated end of year crunch. The QA team, which at this point in time mainly works on Call of Duty: Warzone, so far has been reduced by just over 30%.”

The statement goes on to say that the team was told “multiple times” by leadership that positive departmental changes were coming, which was also the reason no one on the team received standard promotions or raises that allegedly should have been in place by March 2021.

The statement also alleges that several of those who were let go recently relocated to Wisconsin without financial assistance from Raven due to “reassurances from the studio that their workload was consistent”.

“Those participating in this demonstration do so with the continued success of the studio at the forefront of their mind,” the statement continues. “The Raven QA department is essential to the day-to-day functioning of the studio as a whole. Terminating the contracts of high performing testers in a time of consistent work and profit puts the health of the studio at risk.

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“Additionally, these actions go directly against the positive culture that Raven has created over the years. The end goal of this walkout is to ensure the continued growth of Raven as a studio and to foster a positive community for everyone who works there.”

We reached out to Activision Blizzard, and got the following response:

“Activision Publishing is growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources. 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 Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California (since expanded for QA and customer service contractors) alleging years of discrimination and harassment. Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company’s initial response “tone deaf”, employees have staged a walkout, Blizzard president J Allen Brack has left, and the ABK Workers Alliance has demanded change at the company. The lawsuit is ongoing; follow the latest developments here.

In September, an agency of the US federal government opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard’s response to sexual misconduct and discrimination complaints from its employees, as part of which Kotick has reportedly been subpoenaed. The company is also facing a separate unfair labour practice suit alleging “worker intimidation and union busting” filed by a workers’ union, also in September. In another, separate development, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination”. In a subsequent letter to employees, the company has announced an end to forced arbitration, a $250 million initiative to improve diversity, and a major pay cut for Kotick.

A new report published this November now alleges Bobby Kotick knew about and suppressed reports of sexual misconduct. Kotick has responded with an official statement saying the Wall Street Journal’s article “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.” In reply, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors declared it “remains confident” in Kotick’s leadership.

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