Back in February, Activision Blizzard celebrated its record year of profits in 2018 by laying off 800 members of its staff. Needless to say, that may affect the morale around the workplace a little bit. And that’s only the tip of the negative news iceberg for Blizzard this year. They’re also still under investigation for securities fraud, they’ve been slow to reduce their crunch time hours, and then there was that whole bizarre business about having employees share their pregnancy data in exchange for $1 gift cards. That was really weird.
All of this has led to some pretty low morale at the offices of the makers of Overwatch, and World Of Warcraft. As a result, there may be a pretty sizable list of employees who are deciding to exit the company, rather than put up with any more of their negative business practices. This includes some pretty important members of the Blizzard team.
While we don’t know all of the employees looking to jump ship, we do know one of the big names exiting the company. Kim Phan, who was the Global Product Director Of Blizzard Esports, is leaving after her tenure of over 13 years. This is pretty huge, as Phan is a veteran of Blizzard who’s stuck by them through thick and thin. If things are so bad that someone who’s been in the company for over a decade is looking for work elsewhere, then Blizzard must have a lot of issues that need to be sorted out.
This is also another blow to Blizzard’s esports scene, as just a little over a week ago they lost Nate Nanzer, the Overwatch League Commissioner, who left to oversee Epic’s esports division for Fortnite. Pete Vlastelica was named as the person to replace him as the new commissioner, although he may also be the person responsible for Nanzer and Phan leaving. A report came from Dexterto that there have been a lot of complaints about Vlastelica, and many people are sick of working underneath him. Since coming over from FOX Sports’ digital division, he's been running things the way he did there, rather than the way an esports league should be run.
In fact, people like Vlastelica are likely the main reason that Blizzard is quickly becoming a less friendly work environment. The opinion among employees is that ever since Activision purchased Blizzard, their influence has infected the company more and more. Things are becoming much more focused on increasing profits, and less about the development of the games themselves, leading to many workers feeling fairly miserable. So while people like Activision CEO Bobby Kotick get nice, big paychecks from Blizzard’s success, the rest of the staff are being treated like dirt.
Stories about low morale at the biggest game companies in the industry are sadly becoming more and more frequent. While some companies are trying to improve things, revelations about employees being overworked, or harassed seem to pop up almost every week. Then there’s the whole fiasco over at Riot Games regarding their forced arbitration policy, which led to a mass walkout of employees. And of course, there’s basically any Gearbox related story involving Randy Pitchford, who’s a personified version of bad press and workplace negativity.
The situation at Blizzard shows that things definitely need to change in the game industry, as producing quality video games shouldn’t come at the expense of the physical or mental well-being of the people making them. As more news breaks about the poor treatment of employees, hopefully, companies will either make the conscious decision to, or at least be forced to improve work conditions. Because it sure would be nice to get way more positive news stories about working in the video game industry.