Activision Blizzard Makes 1,100 Game Testers Full-Time Employees
Activision Blizzard Inc. said it will convert about 1,100 U.S.-based temporary or contract quality assurance workers to full-time staffers. The move comes in the wake of years of criticism over the video game publisher's reliance on part-time employees and their tenuous working conditions.
The change will increase headcount at Activision's publishing arm by 25% and boost the minimum salary for those workers to $20 an hour, according to a statement from the company. The workers will also be eligible for full company benefits.
In December, Activision converted 500 temporary roles to full-time positions while also ending 20 contracts. Outrage ensued over the job cuts, spurring a union push from a contingent of quality assurance testers at Raven Software, the Activision-owned studio that works on Call of Duty games. After Activision refused to recognize a union at Raven, the National Labor Relations Board in February heard arguments from both sides but hasn't issued a ruling yet.
“This change follows a process that began last year” across Activision Publishing and Blizzard, a spokesperson said in a statement.
An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said Raven workers won't receive new pay initiatives “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.” The spokesperson added that “Whether Raven workers choose to unionize has nothing to do with the salary increases elsewhere for Activision's QA workers.” A representative for the Communications Workers of America, which is representing Raven in its union push, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an email to staff on Thursday, Chief Operating Officer Josh Taub acknowledged that Call of Duty's format has changed from an annual release schedule to an “always on” model. Along with that change, the company has “grown our workforce and support across our studios,” he said. The move to better integrate quality assurance workers will buoy Activision Blizzard's service-game model, where a title is supported indefinitely with regular updates rather than a one-time purchase.
Activision Blizzard will bring on additional quality assurance support from “external partners,” the memo said, as part of a “long-standing studio and industry practice.”
For those hoping to work their way up in the video game world, quality assurance jobs are considered entry-level positions. However, across the industry, those workers have complained of low pay, overwork and uncertainty over how long their contracts will last.