As a former Activision Blizzard employee, allow me to congratulate you all on posting a record $7.5 billion net revenue for the calendar year 2018, and on upending the lives of some 800 human beings that helped make that incredible feat possible.
I was working as an In-Game Support Representative (also known as a “Game Master”) in Blizzard’s World of Warcraft customer support department when the Activision/Vivendi merger finalized in the summer of 2008. While many of us were concerned about Activision’s potential influence on Blizzard’s sacred creative freedom, many fears were assuaged by management’s generous gift of a free copy of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith for the Wii.
Of course, the hundreds of us who were considered temporary full-time employees did not receive any “perks” like free Aerosmith games, despite doing the same work as full-time regular employees, just at $9 an hour instead of $11. Don’t you worry, though! I persevered and eventually earned my place as a full-time Blizzard employee — $11 an hour and everything — and was even allowed to attend the annual Blizzard Christmas party, which temporary full-time employees were barred from. Trading in my purple employee badge for a red one was one of the proudest moments of my young life.
Now, more than 10 years later, Activision Blizzard’s strength in the video game industry is unquestionable, and Blizzard has gone on to release some of its best games ever. How foolish we were to be so worried! Even when 600 of my former coworkers and friends were laid off in 2012, many of them were hired back on as temps, and were allowed to continue doing their jobs at a lower wage and without benefits. It’s shrewd business decisions like these, which embraced Blizzard’s core values of “Play Nice; Play Fair” and “Lead Responsibly,” that enabled today’s record earnings, a nine percent dividend increase for shareholders, and catastrophic layoffs.
As Bobby so eloquently put it in the earnings report, Activision Blizzard is capable of reaching its “full potential” thanks to the company’s “powerful owned franchises, our strong commercial capabilities, our direct digital connections to hundreds of millions of players, and our extraordinarily talented employees.”
Indeed, it’s clear that the senior executive staff at Activision Blizzard ranks its owned IPs chiefly among its assets. Although it considers the human labor that created those IPs to be the least valuable. Thus, today’s layoffs focused on “non-development roles,” according to Bobby, which means that the 800-or-so people liquidated were likely among the company’s lowest earners — contractors and temporary full-time employees striving without insurance (but with plenty of free soda!) to achieve full-time regular status, as I once did. People who are the most vulnerable to economic change; who have the least financial resources; who are the least secure of anyone in Activision Blizzard.
I am grateful, at least, that you are not in a similarly precarious financial situation, Bobby. The $28.6 million you made in 2017 (which just happens to be 29 times greater than what my 40-year lifetime earnings would have been as a Game Master for $11 an hour) should help keep your portfolio well insulated.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) February 9, 2019
Never mind the fact that you continue to show the strength of character necessary to upend hundreds and hundreds of human lives, repeatedly, in order to ensure that Activision Blizzard’s shareholders continue to see dividend increases year after year. On today’s earnings call, during which your company announced its historic $7.5 billion in net revenue, you said that today’s layoffs were among your “top-five career-difficult moment[s],” and I believe you. Figuring out just how many people to axe in order to maintain income levels for the chief executive staff and shareholders must have been a logistical nightmare.
Of course, Activision Blizzard is not a one-man show. Today’s record proceeds and layoffs are a badge on the lapel of everyone in senior corporate management. 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.
This is a business, as I’m sure you’re aware. And while the leaders of some corporations may halve their own pay multiple times in order to indemnify the consequences of their own decisions, those leaders run foreign companies, operating under cultural ideals diametric to our own. This is America, and you all are exploring the possibilities enabled and encouraged by the capitalist teachings that underscore every moment of our lives. Each and every one of you stands as a first-rate example of what capitalism enables, as do the hundreds of families that no longer know where their next meal is coming from. In this way, are we not all truly equal?
Again, congratulations on your monumental achievement and the hugely successful blood sacrifice that enabled it.
All my best,
Jordan Mallory, aka Game Master Airuvol
P.S. Based on his performance in today’s call, Dennis definitely seems worth the $15 million. Good get!