Activision Blizzard has just announced that all temporary and contingent QA workers of its Activision Publishing and Blizzard divisions are being converted to full-time employees — meaning nearly 1,100 temp game testers are getting full-time jobs with benefits. They’ll be making higher wages, too, with a new minimum hourly rate of $20.
Here is a full statement from Jessica Taylor, Activision Blizzard’s vice president of corporate communications:
Across Activision Blizzard, we are bringing more content to players across our franchises than ever before. As a result, we are refining how our teams work together to develop our games and deliver the best possible experiences for our players. We have ambitious plans for the future and our Quality Assurance (QA) team members are a critical part of our development efforts.
Therefore, today we announced the conversion of all US-based temporary and contingent QA team members at Activision Publishing (AP) and Blizzard - nearly 1,100 people in total - to permanent full-time employees starting July 1. Additionally, we are increasing the minimum hourly rate for these team members to $20/hr or more effective April 17. These employees also will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus plan and will have access to full company benefits.
This change follows a process that began last year across AP and Blizzard of converting temporary and contingent employees, including 500 at AP’s studios, to permanent full-time employees.
The change follows significant worker activism after Raven Software, an Activision studio known for its work on the Call of Duty series, announced in December that it was going to lay off QA contractors. Some workers went on strike in protest, and some have since created a union, the Game Workers Alliance, which it formed with Communications Workers of America.
However, Raven QA testers will not be receiving raises, according to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier. Activision Blizzard confirmed this to The Verge and shared an email from Raven Software vice president Brian Raffel with context. “Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we are prohibited from making new kinds of compensation changes at Raven at this time,” Raffel wrote. You can read Raffel’s email in full at the bottom of this article.
“Make no mistake, all credit for Activision Blizzard’s latest move to give all temporary and contingent QA team members full-time employment and a raise should go to the workers who have been organizing, mobilizing and speaking out,” Communications Workers of America secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said in a statement to The Verge.
“It’s especially galling then that Activision has excluded Raven Software QA workers, who have been at the forefront of this effort, from these benefits. The company’s assertion that the National Labor Relations Act prevents them from including Raven workers is clearly an effort to divide workers and undermine their effort to form a union (Game Workers Alliance - CWA). Activision’s disingenuous announcement is further evidence of the need for workers to have a protected voice on the job. We strongly urge Activision Blizzard to rectify this situation and respect Raven QA workers’ protected right to organize under the law.”
Epic Games announced a similar decision to convert testers into full-time employees earlier this year.
Activision has also been under significant pressure following the state of California’s July lawsuit alleging the company fostered a culture of “constant sexual harassment.” The Wall Street Journal reported in November that CEO Bobby Kotick has been aware of sexual misconduct allegations at the company for years. California’s lawsuit is ongoing, though a judge recently approved an $18 million settlement struck with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding its separate lawsuit.
The changes also happen under the shadow of Microsoft’s impending $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard.
Activision provided emails about the changes to The Verge that Activision Publishing and Blizzard execs sent to their teams this week. We have included them below:
Email to Activision Publishing US employees from Josh Taub, Activision Publishing’s chief operating officer
From: Josh Taub
Subject Line: Update to QA
During the last two years, Call of Duty has expanded and evolved. Our development cycles have gone from an annual release to an “always on” model. In response to greater engagement, we’ve increased our live services business across all platforms. Our offerings now encompass season passes, operators, and the awesome content available in our stores. We’ve also grown our workforce and support across our studios, along with exciting new plans on mobile.
In light of these changes, and as we look to our ambitious plans for the future, we are further refining how our development teams work together. QA is, and continues to be, critical to our development success. We have amazing QA teams in place that work hard to ensure our players have the best possible gaming experiences – thank you!
I’m pleased to announce that we are converting all US-based temporary and contingent QA workers to full time employees (FTEs). We are increasing their hourly rate to a minimum of $20/hr and providing access to full company benefits, and they will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus program.
This change follows the conversion of nearly 500 temporary and contingent workers to permanent full-time employees at Activision Publishing’s studios, and other ongoing conversions that have taken place in the past few months.
As Call of Duty evolves, we anticipate periods where the workload will fluctuate and exceed our expanded team’s bandwidth. With this in mind, we’re adding extra support for our team from external partners. This is a long-standing studio and industry practice that will give us more flexibility and capacity to support the business needs and enable our internal teams to focus on the results that most impact our business.
Together, we will change the game and take Call of Duty to the next level.
Email to Blizzard employees from Mike Ybarra, the head of Blizzard
From: Mike Ybarra
Subject: Delivering Blizzard Quality: QA Full Time Conversions
We’ve shared with many of you the exciting experiences we’re bringing to players in 2022 and beyond. There’s so much happening across our teams – and this is just the beginning of our renewed focus in putting our teams and players at the forefront of everything we do.
Our ability to deliver great games at the “Blizzard quality” level our players expect is vital to ensuring we exceed player expectations. Over the last 6 months, I’ve had the opportunity to listen and engage with members of our QA team and we’ve had several meetings where I outlined my philosophy about contract/full-time roles. I want to thank everyone who helped educate me and expressed their views on how we can make Blizzard the best player-focused game studio. We all know QA is integral to our success in ensuring the best possible gameplay experiences.
Some time ago QA leadership started shifting their approach to staffing the team, converting more temporary and contract workers (TEAs) to full-time employees (FTEs), and using partners to support short-term spikes in workload. Today, this shift in approach is culminating in a conversion of all of the remaining U.S.-based TEAs/contractors in QA – more than 90 people across Irvine, Austin and Albany – to FTEs. We’re also increasing the minimum hourly rate for QA to $20/hour, and they will be eligible for our bonus program and increased benefits.
We have amazing QA talent, and I’m very happy to make this change so that we can focus and deliver for players around the globe. If you have any questions, please reach out to me, your HR partner or Wladia Summers.
Thank you for your feedback and helping us make this change.
Email to Raven employees from Brian Raffel, vice president at Raven Software
From: Brian Raffel
Subject: Activision Updates To QA
Date: Thursday, April 7
Today, it was announced that all US-based TEA and contingent QA workers will be converted to FTE. This news builds upon our conversions across AP studios that began in December of 2021. Through direct dialogue with each other, we improved pay, expanded benefits, and provided professional opportunities to attract and retain the world’s best talent.
As part of today’s news, those Activision QA teams will receive an increase in minimum hourly rates. In addition, when the conversions take place, those QA employees will have access to full company benefits and eligibility to participate in the company’s bonus program, the same way our Raven QA teams have already been able to. Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we are prohibited from making new kinds of compensation changes at Raven at this time.
I encourage you to speak to any department lead, manager, or HR to learn more about the union, this process or to answer any specific questions about news.
As always, I will share more specifics when I can. I’m excited about what this could mean for our teams.
Disclosure: Casey Wasserman is on the board of directors for Activision Blizzard as well as the board of directors of Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.
Update April 7th, 3:45PM ET: Added statement from Communications Workers of America.