Kiss My Ass, Activision Blizzard

Dear Bobby, Dennis, Coddy, Brian, Chris, et al.,

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.


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!

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Jordan Mallory

Jordan Mallory is a 10-year games industry veteran with more heart than sense. Lover of frogs and dedicated Girls' Generation S♥NE. Mr. August, Men of Game Development 2015.

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35 Comments

  1. What they’re doing is terrible, but honestly it’s probably a blessing for you as I’m sure you’ll move on to much better things with a better company. If everyone there had the mindset to not tolerate their treatment of employees (by finding other jobs) they may change their behavior. Good luck!

  2. Those 800 people were making what, 9 bucks an hour times times 40 hours or 39 more likely to avoid insurance, that does come out to about 15 million in wages minus payroll taxes and benefits costs. Thats how they hired the new guy without losing profits.

    I quit blizzard games because they all became shallow cash grabs.

  3. The pot continues to approach its boiling point. I have no doubt that in the not so distant future these oliarchs will pay for what they steal in their blood. People are getting angrier by the year, it’s only a matter of time.

    1. Yeah, let’s just keep letting the trend of greed continue and never call people out for doing things that are amoral and damaging to our society as a whole. Enjoy your shack in the slums 30 years from now while the rich on look down from Elysium and laugh at us.

  4. I also love frogs.

    Very well-written. Capitalism sure is shitty. I don’t understand how these people don’t realize they’re shooting themselves in the foot by treating quality people like trash. Hope you’re back on your feet without any major difficulties.

  5. Minimum wage for customer service staff? No wonder none of the GMs give a damn about whoever they’re supposed to “help”, they’re not even making enough for one person to survive.

  6. I have no doubt in my mind that in the fullness of time… the gamers who make these staggering earnings possible, will grow tired of Activision Blizzard committing obscenities like this to their staff and will turn a staggering profit into a staggering loss…

    Companies like EA and Activision can only be taught lessons with great pain and loss… so teach them in the ways they understand…

  7. Dear Jordan,

    I know this will do nothing to better your situation, but i am truly sorry for the situation you and your coworkers are put in by your employer.
    I think you are a great and talented writer, i was very impressed and touched by your letter.

    Good luck with the challenge you face, and i hope all will get better for you and your family.

    From the Netherlands: i wish you all the best and thank you so much for your work, making my game experience awesome!

    Bart.

  8. Don’t forget, some popular movies have a less grievous motivation for the sniper on the rooftop to drop a greedy corporate oligarchy, in fact the industry was all enjoy trains us to kill “targets” and get “paid” for it. I hope no one decides to make that transition from video games to IRL,.. I know I won’t be a target.

  9. Don’t forget they’re buying back $1.5 billion of their stock back over the next two years. Surely they wouldn’t be able to do that without the layoffs #priorities

    1. You’re right. It’s not. It’s not their responsibility to care for their employees; their employees who created the foundation on which the company stands – who created the profit that the corporate jockeys reap. Why should Master Moneybags or any of his corporate buddies lose less than 1% of their personal income, when they could just disown nearly 800 people who generated their coveted revenue?

      It’s not their responsibility to be caring, to be appreciative, to do the right thing. Does that make it less of a douche move to fire the better half of a thousand people, to benefit – in the smallest of ways – the pockets of those who don’t give two cold turds about the company, or the games they make?

      Not really.

    2. Hey dude. That might be true in the US. But in almost every other first world nation (which the US clearly is not anymore) in many valuable companies around the globe, the companies DO feel responsible for their employees.

    3. No, but to axe this many employees just so the top dog can have more money in his already obscenely large annual income is dirty.

    4. but its the companies responsibility to develop quality stuff everybody wants and buys.
      i agree that everyone has to look after himself, and even if its just somehow logical to cut costs on employees if your business isnt actual performing too well.
      Cutting employees instead of trying to get some quality stuff out everybody wants to play/buy is not the right direction. I know its a friggin company, but its not how blizzard used to work and to be honest, since 2009 (and Activision getting into Blizz) the quality stuff is going downwards….

    5. It’s a free market, if you want to support greedy rich people making bad decisions that result in mediocre products and hundreds of people being laid off just so that they can become billionaires that is entirely up to you. It is not illegal. But many people disagree with this and write articles like this to spread awareness, so that we can make our own decisions regarding where we put our money. I have canceled my Blizzard subscriptions (for several reasons but this is one of them) and if you like what Blizzard is doing, keep giving them money.

      I also don’t understand your logic, did he not work for Blizzard? Did he not work hours every day for this company? That means that it is Blizzards responsibility to “take care of him” in a way, to provide him with pay etc. Of course they can fire people if they feel like it, but would you like to work at a place where you know everyday could be your last because of corporate greed? You sound like you would be happy if you were laid off for this reason, which is don’t think is true.

      The greatest brainwash created except for religion is that rich people need to be defended by poor people. You will never be rich, that is a lie. Stop defending the 0.1% and start to think of the 99.9% of people instead.

    6. Actually, it is. Not the private life and personal decisions, but anything related to the job, yes. Besides it’s in the company’s interests to do it, because you obviously work better if you don’t have to constantly worry about getting laid off or any company-related issues. Why do you think so many big companies offer free meals, gym and so on?

    7. Well they dont have to by law, but that’s a stupid excuse to use your worker as sheep’s to earn more profit. Have some human decency. If you want to represent some moral standards you should live by them. Sorry for my foreign English knowledge, but I think you get the point.

      1. Night manager at Booger Fling pays more and they’ll pay for you to go to school so you don’t have to work as a permanent temp for Slimey McGamestudio.

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