The Blizzard boss has unsettled and demoralized his employees. There is less money and employees who are more likely to be smiled at.
At Blizzard “the hut burns” – again. Many employees are shocked by the boss’s latest statements. A lot of money has been cut, new regulations are likely to result in layoffs and a whole group of employees does not feel valued.
The boss Mike Ybarra, who has been a kind of “savior” for many, is to blame for this. But in an in-house “Q&A round” statements piled up, which together triggered a new scandal and ruined the motivation of many employees.
Many of the statements in this article are from Game Developer Magazinewho spoke to Blizzard employees. They then had Ybarra’s respective answers confirmed by a Blizzard speaker.
Blizzard cuts bonus payments by 42% – on all
The first bad news was the announcement that the bonus payment, which gives employees a share in the company’s success, will be reduced to 58% this year. This was particularly surprising to many, since Blizzard had an extremely strong fourth quarter and several games and expansions were successfully released at the same time – including Overwatch 2 and World of Warcraft: Dragonflight.
The announcement caused a lot of frustration and anger. Although this reduction applies to all employees – including the bosses – Ybarra apparently showed little empathy and said:
If you believe that executives make a lot of money and you don’t, then you are living a myth.
While it’s technically true that the bonus cut affects executives and employees, the implications for each are drastically different.
Or to put it more bluntly: If a manager with a regular salary of $300,000 a year loses part of the bonus payment, that is significantly less dramatic for the living situation than if an employee with $45,000 a year loses the bonus that has just been can stay afloat.
Blizzard ends home office and says through the flower: “If you don’t like it, you can go”
A few days ago it became known that Blizzard was phasing out the current home office regulations. Many have been able to work entirely from home in recent months and have only had to return to the office on rare occasions.
After the suspension of these home office rules, all employees are required to return to the office at least 3 days per week. Not only does this result in increasing travel costs (which are becoming increasingly expensive due to inflation) and more time invested for the journeys, but also causes problems for a whole group of employees.
Because during the peak of the Covid pandemic, Activision Blizzard hired many employees who worked completely as “remote workers” in the home office. In this way, new employees could also be won who lived far away from Blizzard offices.
These employees are now also required to visit Blizzard regularly, which means that many would have to move to even have a Blizzard office nearby. Blizzard also mentioned that they want to open some new offices.
One question for Ybarra was how Blizzard plans to prevent this return to mandatory attendance from causing the company to lose talented employees. Ybarra is said to have said:
Ultimately we want people to be happy and if choices don’t go with your happiness and you don’t become happy then you must do what makes you happy.
This was interpreted by many employees as follows: “If you don’t like it here, then go somewhere else.”
A Blizzard spokesperson confirmed Ybarra’s comment to Game Developer, but added that they “want to listen to the team’s feedback” and do what “is best for the company and the players in the long run.”
Quality Control – Not a real job looking for a career
Of all these changes, the biggest concerns were in the occupational groups that currently earn the least. This primarily includes quality control (“QA”) and customer support staff. These employees often have problems making ends meet financially and are therefore particularly affected by these cuts.
Regarding those two career mistakes, Ybarra said that “some of our areas are not long-term pursuits.” According to Blizzard, this is because they want “people to develop and take on expanded responsibilities and opportunities.”
The rationale seems to be that both quality control and customer support are not areas that are particularly valued by Blizzard and employees are not expected to have actual, long-term careers where similar perks and bonuses could be enjoyed, such as in game design or direct development.
Not surprisingly, these views depressed the morale of many employees. QA employees in particular have been trying for years to get more recognition and wages and are committed to ensuring that their work is seen as a job with a career and is not just a rung on the ladder to completely different careers.
Mike Ybarra’s reputation is crumbling
So far, Mike Ybarra has had a pretty good standing with Blizzard and the community. He was always considered “one of us” – a gamer at heart who also plays World of Warcraft at a high level and protects the developers “from above” against the will of the people.
After the Q&A event, however, the picture seems to have faltered and many employees have the suspicion that Ybarra is primarily concerned with the figures on the balance sheet at the end of the year and the circumstances of the developers enjoy a subordinate role.
Many Blizzard employees and family members have expressed their displeasure on social media. We have included some of these tweets in this article.