Warzone studio Raven Software’s quality assurance team is walking out today, alongside other members of the studio’s staff, to protest the recent termination of a dozen colleagues. At least 12 testers were told on Friday that their contracts would be ending early next year, despite the battle royale’s continued success. Activision announced in April that Warzone had surpassed 100 million players.
Protesters are demanding that the affected staff be reinstated, and that every member of Raven’s QA team be offered full-time positions.
"Those participating in this demonstration do so with the continued success of the studio at the forefront of their mind,” they write. “The Raven QA department is essential to the day-to-day functioning of the studio as a whole. Terminating the contracts of high performing testers in a time of consistent work and profit puts the health of the studio at risk."
Activision says that the layoffs are a side effect of "converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees."
The layoffs represent a reduction of more than 30% to Raven’s QA team, which primarily tests updates to Warzone. This after the team was told to expect "positive departmental changes", according to protesters. Staff had been waiting for promotions and raises initially due in March this year, and have just faced five weeks of overtime.
As Kotaku reports, Raven is planning more meetings to decide which QA staff will have their roles converted to full-time with raises, and which will be laid off. Those who currently remain are therefore facing a Christmas of employment uncertainty.
Several of the workers who were let go had relocated to Wisconsin, where Raven is based, expecting to return to the office as Covid restrictions ease. None received financial assistance from the studio to make the move. Protesters say that Warzone earns Raven’s owner Activision $5.2 million a day.
"These actions go directly against the positive culture that Raven has created over the years," protesters say. "The end goal of this walk out is to ensure the continued growth of Raven as a studio and to foster a positive community for everyone who works there."
An Activision spokesperson told PC Gamer that the publisher is growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources: "We are converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months. Unfortunately, as part of this change, we also have notified 20 temporary workers across studios that their contracts would not be extended."
The walkout comes against a backdrop of recent worker protest at Activision, which intensified in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report. The WSJ alleged that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick had intervened on behalf of Dan Bunting, then co-head of Call of Duty studio Treyarch, after Bunting was accused of sexually harassing a female employee. An internal investigation had recommended Bunting be fired—until Kotick allegedly stepped in to keep him. Thousands of Activision Blizzard staff have since called on Kotick to resign.