A spreadsheet with Activision Blizzard employee salaries has been circulating within the company since Friday in an attempt to raise awareness about salary discrepancies and pay increases, Bloomberg reports.
The spreadsheet was created after Blizzard implemented changes to employee compensations, following a 2019 study which revealed that more than 50 percent of the company's hires are unhappy with the pay they're receiving. The change, however, has been deemed insufficient, which is why one employee created the spreadsheet, so that employees can anonymously share with their colleagues how much they're getting paid and what salary increases they've received.
Most of the raises are below 10%, the report states, which is less than people expected. But according to Activision Blizzard spokesperson Jessica Taylore, that's not the entire truth of it. According to Taylor, top performers within the company received a 20% increase, and more people got promoted too.
“We are constantly reviewing compensation philosophies to better recognize the talent of our highest performers and keep us competitive in the industry, all with the aim of rewarding and investing more in top employees," Taylor told Bloomberg.
But dissatisfaction is clear and widespread within the company, especially in positions like game testers and community management, who are living on minimum wage, working in one of the most expensive places in the U.S. — California. It might not matter how long one has worked with Activision Blizzard either, with one veteran claiming his raise equaled "less than 50 cents an hour", per Bloomberg. Some have managed to turn their income around by leaving Blizzard and looking for other opportunities in the gaming industry, while for those who've stayed with the game dev behemoth, it meant cutting down even on essential costs like food and rent, or putting family plans on hold because they can't afford them.
For those Blizzard employees struggling to make a living, the contrast between what they earn and what others make is disproportionate. Bloomberg cites CEO Bobby Kotick's 2019 compensation of $40M, but also the salaries of engineers and producers at the company making $100,000 annually.
While executives in big tech, and major corporations in general, have always made disproportionately more money, with Activision Blizzard there's also the added issue of how the company has presented itself in the public eye in the past few years. In January 2019, the company fired over 800 employees, stating it wants to shift back to making more games and new products, but since then, it has not delivered on this. Warcraft III: Reforged was a major disaster for Activision Blizzard, launching with a slew of bugs, missing features, and false promises. The next big release on the calendar, Overwatch 2, is seen by many as an expansion rather than a completely new game. And Diablo IV, arguably the most awaited product from Blizzard, is "not even Blizzard soon".
The story is a continuation on the cultural shift within Activision Blizzard, a company now driven by "suits" and executives, rather than the creative force, as reported by Jason Schreier for Kotaku in 2018. The once widely praised developer has been in cost-cutting mode, which would explain the massive lay-offs and the minimum wages for supportng staff — and also why there's the reported widespread discontent with the company.
“Blizzard is a special place,” a former Blizzard employee told Kotaku in 2018. “A lot of people are worried about the future of Blizzard — if the Activision method seeps in more, what that’s going to become.”
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