One of the studios responsible for Call of Duty’s success is laying off QA testers that are reportedly earning $17 an hour for their work on the franchise Activision Blizzard said brought in $3 billion dollars in 2020. Raven Software, known for its work on Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and CoD: Warzone has now laid off a third of its contract QA testers, according to reports by Kotaku and The Washington Post.
Raven’s Associate Community Manager Austin O’Brien said that team members were being called into individual meetings to be told whether or not they would still have a job come January 28th. So far, the company has reportedly laid off about a third of its QA testers, or around a dozen people, but it’s possible more could follow. The Post quotes an anonymous Raven contractor who said that “everyone was told, ‘you did nothing wrong,’ after being given the bad news.”
A Better ABK, an employee advocacy group, says many of the employees moved to Wisconsin for the job, without receiving assistance from Activision Blizzard. O’Brien also tweeted that the company had been promising team members they would get raises after Activision (Raven’s owner) completed a pay restructure, and that may be coming true in a cruel way: Kotaku reports that the workers who get to stay will receive a raise from $17 an hour to $18.50 an hour, along with better benefits and bonuses.
Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier tweeted that some testers he spoke to won’t know their status until next week, which likely means they’ll have to endure an uncomfortable weekend before they find out if they’ll have to spend the holidays job hunting. One QA tester for the studio tweeted that they wouldn’t know until Tuesday, and Kotaku reported that the studio’s developers learned about the layoffs via word of mouth, instead of an official announcement.
Activision Blizzard has shown a pattern of laying off workers amidst booming business, as Kotaku points out. In 2019, the company laid off around 8 percent of its employees after CEO Bobby Kotick announced that its 2018 financial results were the best in the company’s history. In June, Kotick reportedly received $155 million dollars after a shareholder vote — a few months before that, the company laid off around 50 employees that managed events, giving them three month’s severance and $200 Battle.net gift cards. Gamesindustry.biz reports that Call of Duty: Vanguard, a game made by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision, was the second largest game launch in 2021.
Activision Blizzard has recently been in the spotlight for having terrible work conditions and for not acting on repeated claims of abuse and sexual assault from employees. There are also allegations that Kotick knew about the issues for years and had his own history of harassment. In less than a week, the company is set to release an expansion to Call of Duty: Warzone that ties into Vanguard.
Activision didn’t respond to The Verge’s request for comment.