Game Workers Unite calls for Activision Blizzard CEO Kotick’s removal after mass redundancies

Game Workers Unite calls for Activision Blizzard CEO Kotick’s removal after mass redundancies

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick must go.

At least, that’s what industry activist and would-be union Games Workers Unite believes. GWU issued a scathing response to news that 800 employees would lose their jobs - despite a record year for the publishing giant.

Claiming to represent “the workers of Activision and their friends”, the GWU Twitter account (below) called for Kotick to step down from his position following what it views as a gross shift of wealth towards the company’s upper strata.

Despite announcing record revenue yesterday, Activision Blizzard gave workers a one-two punch by announcing an eight per cent staffing cut in the same breath as it bumped up stockholder dividends by nine per cent to $0.37. 

Similarly, new CFO Dennis Durkin was paid a substantial $15m bonus - on top of his base $900,000 salary - simply for taking on the new role. That's divided into a $3.7m upfront golden handshake, with a further $11.3m tied up in stock. 

From the bottom floor, it’s easy to see how Activision Blizzard seems interested solely in filling the pockets of its executives and shareholders.

The hashtag #FireBobbyKotick gained traction following GWU’s tweet, marking an increasing tension between the workers who create and support games and the executives who profit most from them.

That Kotick himself continues to be compensated a ludicrously high amount - reported to be in the region of $28.6m - while workers lose their jobs is a step too far for many. After all, comparisons to the late Satoru Iwata, who famously took a substantial pay cut as CEO of Nintendo during a rough patch for the company, are everywhere.

One former Blizzard employee struck out not just at Kotick, but the entire corporate structure that led to these redundancies.

“Today’s record proceeds and layoffs are a badge on the lapel of everyone in senior corporate management,” said ex-World of Warcraft Games Master Jordan Mallory, in a subtly-named Fanbyte article titled “Kiss my ass, Activision Blizzard.”

“I’m sure you all worked tirelessly to ensure that the immeasurable chain reaction of human suffering caused by today’s events is only as big as was necessary to meet a completely arbitrary profit goal. After all, something had to be done in order to counteract the “weaker than anticipated retail demand” that President/COO Coddy Johnson mentioned on today’s call."

Workers are increasingly fed up with industry conditions, and it looks like we’re approaching a breaking point. 2018 was a year that saw workers fired for social media use and the sudden implosion of the seemingly-unstoppable Telltale Games.

Then there was Capcom closing its Vancouver office - putting a reported 158 people out of work following 50 being laid off months before - LawBreakers studio Boss Key biting the dust, taking in the region of 60 staff with it before 50 people lost their roles with the closure of WildStar maker Carbine Studios. The list goes on.  

Crunch came roaring back into the spotlight after passing comments from Rockstar boss Dan Houser, while the weeks that followed painted a deeply conflicted portrait of life at the Red Dead Redemption 2 developer.

At the very least, it appears laid-off Activision Blizzard workers will be compensated, with the company setting aside $150m to cover this.

But this hasn’t been true of all mass redundancies in the last year. Increasingly, workers are looking for more ways to gain leverage over their bosses in any way they can.

GDC 2018 was a hotbed for developer dissatisfaction and the flashpoint where calls for developers to unionise started anew; with the San Francisco-based conference fast approaching, we can't help but feel this is once again going to be a huge point of conversation. 

The UK branch of Game Workers Unite has become an actual union now, becoming a chapter of gig economy organisation Independent Workers of Great Britain

Staff Writer

Natalie Clayton is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer and game developer. Besides PCGamesInsider and, she's written across the games media landscape and was named in the 2018 100 Rising Star list.