Doomfist, Sojourn, and Junker Queen in Key Art for Overwatch 2
Doomfist, Sojourn, and Junker Queen in Key Art for Overwatch 2

Blizzard Slashes Employee Benefits Despite All-Time Quarterly Financial Record

L, massive L.

It’s no secret that Activision Blizzard has had a tumultuous few years in the gaming sphere, including a massive sexual harassment lawsuit that saw a significant number of high-profile employees (including lead Overwatch dev Jeff Kaplan) depart from the company in response. Despite the shakeup, though, Blizzard has soldiered on, setting a year-over-year quarterly record for net bookings—a metric closely related to revenue—thanks in large part to the release of Overwatch 2 in the fall of 2022. But despite these record-breaking earnings, a recent Q&A with Blizzard leadership has left employees upset with the announcement of several frustrating internal changes at the gaming giant.

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In the midst of attempts by some employees to unionize, Blizzard president Mike Ybarra held a meeting that resulted in numerous employees taking to Twitter to express their frustration with several decisions made by Blizzard leadership. One of the most inflammatory announcements made at the meeting was the revelation that Blizzard would be instituting a return-to-office mandate, requiring all employees( except those hired under an all-remote agreement, a Blizzard representative clarified to Game Developer) to work in-person in at least a hybrid capacity.

As pointed out by Twitter user @LeastMyHairIsOK (a developer at Blizzard), a substantial volume of Blizzard employees aren’t interested in returning to the office—nor do many have the financial means to do so. In the thread, @LeastMyHairIsOk points out that forcing employees to return to the office puts an additional financial strain on already-struggling devs: According to a job posting on Indeed, some Blizzard employees are making as little as $22 an hour.

If the increased financial strain due to the demands about returning to the office weren’t enough, the frustrations for employees didn’t end there—one of the most upsetting announcements in Ybarra’s Q&A was the revelation that all employees would receive a lower percentage of an annual bonus than previously promised. According to Game Developer, Ybarra made an allegedly “bizarre comparison to his and other executives’ pay packages to those of rank-and-file employees, appeared to downplay the value of QA and customer service roles at the studio, and defended the company’s decision to slash annual profit-sharing bonuses.”

https://twitter.com/leekatv/status/1626684830695186432

The decision to reduce bonuses adds particular insult to injury considering that Blizzard recently released a quarterly earnings report that announced 43% year-over-year net bookings growth, an all-time quarterly record. Blizzard Entertainment specifically saw their sales and operating income jump 90%, with titles like World of Warcraft, Overwatch 2, and Diablo each generating over $100 million in net bookings. Still, despite these impressive figures, Blizzard employees will receive just 58% of their annual bonus, a devastating blow especially when considering many employees will take on additional financial burdens with the return-to-office requirement.

Ybarra’s Q&A was so frustrating among both employees and the gaming community at large that many took to Twitter to express their opinions, especially in regards to his comments about QA and customer service, which some felt were insulting and undervalued the hard work of employees. Though disheartening, the Q&A is just the latest in a string of moves by Blizzard to increase profits at the expense of employees and players alike.

(featured image: Blizzard)


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Author
Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates