Activision Blizzard just announced that all temporary and temporary QA employees from the Activision Publishing and Blizzard divisions will be converted to full-time employees – meaning nearly 1,100 temporary game testers will get full-time jobs with benefits. They will also earn higher wages, with a new minimum hourly rate of $20.
Here’s a full statement from Jessica Taylor, Activision Blizzard’s vice president of corporate communications:
In Activision Blizzard, we’re bringing more content to players in our franchises than ever before. As a result, we are refining how our teams work together to develop our games and provide the best possible experiences for our players. We have ambitious plans for the future and our Quality Assurance (QA) team members are a critical part of our development efforts.
That’s why we announced today the conversion of all US-based temporary and temporary QA team members at Activision Publishing (AP) and Blizzard – nearly 1,100 people in total – to permanent full-time employees effective July 1. In addition, we will increase the minimum hourly rate for these team members to $20/hour or more effective April 17. These employees are also eligible to participate in the company’s bonus plan and have access to full company benefits.
This change follows a process that began last year at AP and Blizzard to convert temporary and temporary employees, including 500 at AP’s studios, into permanent full-time employees.
The change follows significant workers’ activism after Raven Software, an Activision studio known for its work on the Call of Duty series, announced in December that it would be firing QA contractors. Some workers went on strike in protest and some have since formed a union, the Game Workers Alliancewho formed it with Communications Workers of America†
However, Raven QA testers do not receive raises, according to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier† Activision Blizzard confirmed this to Custom Hour, sharing an email from Raven Software vice president Brian Raffel with context. “Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we are currently prohibited from making new types of compensation changes at Raven,” Raffel wrote. You can read Raffel’s email in full at the bottom of this article.
And here’s the snag: Activision won’t give pay increases to Raven QA testers, who are unionized, “because of our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act,” the company said in an email seen by Bloomberg News.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) Apr 7, 2022
“Make no mistake, credit to Activision Blizzard’s final step to get all temporary and temporary QA team members full-time jobs and a pay increase should go to the employees who organized, mobilized and spoke out,” Secretary of Communications Workers of America. That says treasurer Sara Steffens in a statement to Custom Hour.
“It’s especially troubling that Activision has excluded Raven Software’s QA staff, who have spearheaded this effort, from these benefits. The company’s claim that the National Labor Relations Act prohibits them from taking on Raven workers is clearly an attempt to divide workers and undermine their attempt to form a union (Game Workers Alliance – CWA). Activision’s unfair announcement is further proof of the need for employees to have a protected voice at work. We urge Activision Blizzard to rectify this situation and respect the legally protected right of Raven QA employees to organize.”
Epic Games announced a similar decision earlier this year to convert testers into full-time employees.
Activision has also come under significant pressure after the state of California’s lawsuit in July alleging that the company fostered a culture of “ongoing sexual harassment.” The Wall Street Journal reported in November that CEO Bobby Kotick has been aware of allegations of sexual misconduct at the company for years. The California lawsuit is ongoing, although a judge recently approved an $18 million settlement reached with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding his separate lawsuit.
The changes are also happening in the shadow of Microsoft’s imminent $68.7 Billion Deal to Acquire Activision Blizzard†
Activision sent out emails this week about the changes to Custom Hour that the directors of Activision Publishing and Blizzard have sent to their teams. We’ve included them below:
Email to Activision Publishing US Employees of Josh Taub, Chief Operating Officer of Activision Publishing
From: Josh Taub
Subject line: Update to QA
Over the past two years, Call of Duty has expanded and evolved. Our development cycles have moved from an annual release to an ‘always on’ model. In response to increased engagement, we’ve increased our live services business across all platforms. Our offering now includes season passes, operators and the great content available in our stores. We’ve also expanded our workforce and support in our studios, along with exciting new plans for mobile.
In light of these changes and as we look to our ambitious plans for the future, we are refining the way our development teams work together. QA is and will remain crucial to our development success. We have great QA teams who work hard to make sure our players have the best gaming experiences possible – thank you!
I am pleased to announce that we are converting all US-based temporary and contingent QA employees to full-time employees (FTEs)† We increase their hourly rate to a minimum of $20/hour and provide access to full company benefits, and they are eligible to participate in the company’s bonus program.
This change follows the conversion of nearly 500 temporary and temporary employees to permanent full-time employees at Activision Publishing’s studios, and other ongoing conversions that have taken place in recent months.
As Call of Duty evolves, we anticipate periods when the workload will fluctuate and exceed the bandwidth of our expanded team. With this in mind, we are adding additional support for our team from external partners. This is a long-standing practice in the studio and industry that will give us greater flexibility and capacity to support business needs and allow our in-house teams to focus on the outcomes that most impact our business.
Together we will change the game and take Call of Duty to the next level.
Email to Blizzard employees from Mike Ybarra, the head of Blizzard
From: Mike Ybarra
Subject: Delivering Blizzard Quality: QA Full-Time Conversions
We’ve shared with many of you the exciting experiences we’re bringing to players in 2022 and beyond. There is so much happening in our teams – and this is just the beginning of our renewed focus on putting our teams and players at the forefront of everything we do.
Our ability to deliver great games at the level of “Blizzard quality” our players expect is vital to ensuring we exceed players’ expectations. Over the past 6 months I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and interact with members of our QA team and we’ve had several meetings where I’ve outlined my philosophy on contract/full-time positions. I want to thank everyone who helped me educate and shared their thoughts on how we can make Blizzard the best player-centric game studio. We all know that QA is integral to our success in ensuring the best possible gameplay experiences.
Some time ago, QA leadership began to shift their approach to staffing the team, converting more temporary and contract workers (TEAs) to full-time employees (FTEs), and using partners to support short-term spikes in workloads. Today, this shift in approach culminates in a conversion of all of the remaining US-based TEAs/contractors in QA – over 90 people in Irvine, Austin and Albany – to FTEs. We are also increasing the minimum hourly rate for QA to $20/hour, and they are eligible for our bonus program and increased benefits.
We have great QA talent and I am very happy to make this change so that we can focus and perform for players around the world. If you have any questions, please contact me, your HR partner or Wladia Summers.
Thank you for your feedback and for helping us make this change.
Email to Raven employees from Brian Raffel, vice president at Raven Software
From: Brian Raffel
Subject: Activision updates for QA
Date: Thursday 7 April
It was announced today that all US-based TEA and temporary QA employees will be converted to FTE. This news builds on our conversions in AP studios that started in December 2021. Through direct dialogue with each other, we have improved pay, expanded benefits and provided professional opportunities to attract and retain the world’s best talent.
As part of today’s news, those Activision QA teams will receive an increase in minimum hourly rates. In addition, when the conversions happen, those QA employees will have access to full company benefits and will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus program, just as our Raven QA teams already have. Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we are currently prohibited from making new types of compensation changes at Raven.
I encourage you to speak with a department head, manager or HR to learn more about the union, this process, or answer specific questions about news.
As always I will share more details when I can. I’m excited about what this can mean for our teams.
Disclosure: Casey Wasserman serves on the board of directors of Activision Blizzard and on the board of directors of Vox Media, the parent company of Custom Hour.
Update April 7, 3:45 PM ET: Additional statement from Communications Workers of America.