Publisher Activision Blizzard “achieved record results” in 2018 financially, yet it has made the decision to lay off 8 percent of its employees, which would amount to nearly 800 employees out of a 2018 total of around 9,600 employees. The layoffs are a result of the company not achieving its intended sales for 2018 and (thus) lowered expectations for profits in 2019. These layoffs are affecting, according to Kotaku, “Activision publishing, Blizzard, King, and some of Activision’s studios, including High Moon.” Blizzard president J. Allen Brack wrote this in a note to company staff:
Over the last few years, many of our non-development teams expanded to support various needs. Currently staffing levels on some teams are out of proportion with our current release slate. This means we need to scale down some areas of our organization. I’m sorry to share that we will be parting ways with some of our colleagues in the U.S. today. In our regional offices, we anticipate similar evaluations, subject to local requirements.
Likewise, Activision is saying it has let go of people mostly not directly in game development, such as employees in publishing and esports, which is primarily where layoffs have been felt at Blizzard. And we must also keep in mind that Bungie and Activision recently agreed to part ways with Destiny, giving publishing rights to Bungie, but Destiny had a marketing team at Activision. So the writing was on the wall already that some changes were going to be made, and in fact, rumors about large layoffs at Activision had actually persisted for months until now. The scope of this restructuring is unfortunate and unnerving though.
Activision is promising a dazzling severance package, including health benefits, career coaching, job placement assistance, and profit-sharing bonuses related to company performance. On one hand, it’s better than nothing. On the other hand, for a company of this size that is coming off a record year, it could also be argued that this is the bare minimum that they could do for their employees.
It’s a simple fact of business that companies operate better when they trim the fat and streamline their operations, but is this a case where a company truly had to lay off hundreds upon hundreds of people in order to achieve peak efficiency? I’m not so sure.