In 2008, following the acquisition of Blizzard for more than $ 18 billion, Activision put Bobby Kotick in charge of the company. With him at the helm, and throughout the different scenarios that the video game industry has been experiencing over the last decade, the truth is that the North American publisher has not stopped growing. In fact, the company’s upward line has been accentuated by the current pandemic situation, which has spurred both the consumption of the video game and its purchase in digital format, something that, as we all know, substantially increases the profit margin.
A landmark year, but for the wrong reasons
2020 has been a really good year for Activision. Already in the first quarter, after the start of the pandemic situation, had significantly increased its revenue from 1.4 billion the previous year to a staggering $ 1.93 billion, signing what, at that time, meant the best quarter in its history. This dynamic, which has been maintained throughout the academic year, did not prevent the news related to restructurings, reorganizations and, ultimately, layoffs from returning in October, something that is even more surprising if we take into account that the company already shed nearly 800 employees in 2019. On that occasion, all of this was happening while Kotick was receiving a $ 40 million target bonus, according to Bloomberg.
On October 6 we learned, also through the same American portal, the news that Activision Blizzard had decided to close the Versailles office, thus liquidating the company’s presence in French territory. This office had about 400 employees at the beginning of the previous year., which were in charge of tasks such as marketing, localization, or customer service. As reported in Bloomberg itself, this decision was due to the impossibility of moving the office to London, a process that was affected by Brexit, first and later, by the current pandemic situation. From Activision the following was said:
“Over the last year we have been exploring how we could better integrate our capabilities across the business, allowing us to better leverage talent, experience and scale as we adapt to the needs of a fast-paced, highly competitive industry. and focused on digital “
Now, just 5 months later, Activision is preparing a new round of office closures. The news comes this time through GameIndustry, where we can read the following statements from one of the company’s managers when asked about the imminent closure of the offices:
“We have shared plans with our teams in Europe on how we would evolve as an organization, adapting to this change to serve our players and better position the region for future growth. We will take extensive measures to support all employees and ease the transition to those of our colleagues who may be affected by these proposed changes. “
Which, devoid of euphemism, comes to mean that they have opened a period of consultations regarding the massive layoffs to be carried out in France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The rewards for a job well done
As we have already pointed out, this wave of restructuring is not new. The closure of the French offices at the end of last year was followed by the round of layoffs that began in the Asian countries where the company has a presence.. At that time, aspects such as the need to improve the company’s efficiency, to satisfy growth opportunities and to be more competitive in the future were also mentioned. If in Europe there was talk of a centralization located in London, in this case the chosen city was Sydney.
This succession of restructuring, office closings and, ultimately, layoffs, takes place in a year that has meant a process of historic ascent in terms of profits. Something that the publisher has achieved thanks to the health enjoyed by some of its franchises. For example, Call of Duty itself, which has had the launch of its battle royale, Call of Duty: Warzone, which has been a resounding success economically. From that economic ascent caused, in part, by the work of many of the workers who now see how their jobs are about to evaporate, the current listing of Activision Blizzard emerges. And it is here when the data makes an appearance that ends up turning something that already seemed quite murky in itself, into a real grotesque, which in turn is a shameless sample of the current economic scenario. The American publisher is currently trading at $ 90 a share. On the other hand, when Bobby Kotick was appointed CEO of the same, said value barely exceeded 30 dollars. This increase serves to the manager to pocket a bonus for objectives of 200 million dollars.
Of euphemisms and realities
The scene can be described as each one sees fit, and I will not go into assessing the contractual section that marks the employment relationship between Activision Blizzard and its CEO, but the scene, as a whole, seems grotesque to me. We are talking about a company that in less than two years has laid off more than 1,200 employees and that, in turn, is at the peak of collection and profitability in the video game industry, as reflected in the bonuses that its current head of state pocketed year after year. Which, to conclude, stars in the icing on this unpleasant cake that we are baking, since in May, Bobby Kotick himself notified, through his twitter account, Activision’s intention to hire more than 2,000 employees.
Almost a year later the company is seeing how its offices around the world are restructured and how hundreds of workers are left by the way, when it is assumed, according to the data and the bonuses, that the work carried out has been a complete success. In the meantime, the company strives to justify these decisions by talking about the future, sustainability, growth opportunities and even concern for its employees.
I understand that I am not an expert in business administration and management, just as I understand that in an entity of this size, it is normal for certain adjustments and restructuring to occur over time. I can even come to understand that ethics is totally outside the field of business (as it happens in this case), but if so, and this is a strictly personal opinion, I would appreciate if at least you did not try to sweeten the facts with euphemisms. The reality is that Activision, one of the industry’s fittest publishers that makes the most money in the entertainment world, has shed more than 1,400 employees in less than two years. The video game may be culture, but of course it is also this, and it does not smell very good.