I must say: I’m not surprised to hear that Blizzard is ripping off its employees. They’ve been ripping off their customers for a very long time.
Employees at Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Activision Blizzard Inc., began circulating a spreadsheet on Friday to anonymously share salaries and recent pay increases, the latest example of rising tension in the video game industry over wage disparities and executive compensation.
Blizzard, based in Irvine, California, makes popular games including Diablo and World of Warcraft. In 2019, after an internal survey revealed that more than half of Blizzard workers were unhappy with their compensation, the company told staff it would perform a study to ensure fair pay, according to people familiar with the situation. Blizzard implemented the results of that study last month, which led to an outcry on the company’s internal Slack messaging boards.
One employee then created a spreadsheet and encouraged staff to share their compensation information. The anonymous document, reviewed by Bloomberg News, contains dozens of purported Blizzard salaries and pay bumps. Most of the raises are below 10%, significantly less than Blizzard employees said they expected following the study.
“Our goal has always been to ensure we compensate our employees fairly and competitively,” Activision Blizzard spokeswoman Jessica Taylor said. “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.”
This year, Blizzard top performers received a salary increase that was 20% more than in prior years, and more people got promotions, Taylor added. “Our overall salary investment is consistent with prior years,” she also said.
Wage disparity has become a hot-button issue in the $150 billion video game industry as calls for unionization grow. A pro-labor group recently slammed Activision Blizzard for the pay of Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick. His 2019 compensation was worth $40 million at the end of that year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and the package has grown since then as the company’s stock has soared. Last year, the company also paid $15 million in stock awards and sign-on bonus to incoming Chief Financial Officer Dennis Durkin. In the anonymous spreadsheet, one employee listed the CEO’s annual salary, bonus and stock award.
This is not some communist thing, in my view. I am certain that these employees are being abused, because I have personally been abused by Blizzard.
For whatever reason, large Western video game companies have all become criminal rackets.
Blizzard specifically has pretty much completely given up on trying. I was personally very excited for the release of a new version of Warcraft III, entitled Warcraft III: Reforged, which was announced in 2018, to be released in 2019. They kept pushing the release date back, eventually saying they would release it on the last day of 2019. That got pushed back to January 2020, when they finally released it.
When it was finally released, it was one of the biggest disasters in the history of video games. In fact, it was almost unbelievable. Not only did the game contain zero of the promised features that people were excited about, it was so buggy as to be unplayable. They also made the classic version of the game unplayable by forcing people who owned the old version to upgrade their client (for no clear reason).
After blaming the players for the game’s failure, they then did the classic video game scammer move of refusing to issue refunds.
Six months later, I still check up on the game, because I would still pay $30 for my classic childhood favorite if it had the features I want (primarily, I want a ladder system with good matchmaking), but these features have still not been implemented.
It would have been very easy for Blizzard to simply make a good game, but they instead decided to do a cash grab against their own customer base. Just so, it is always better to pay your employees a fair wage. You’re not going to be able to effectively rip them off. If they do not feel they’re being paid fairly, they will not ever give 100% on the job, so you just end up losing money in the long run.
This mindset of “just get the money, screw the customers, screw the employees, screw everyone but the investors” has overtaken every company, from 2K, to EA, to Ubisoft, to anything at all owned by Microsoft. It’s a real mess. Other than Rockstar, it’s difficult to name a large Western game company that cares about its customers at all.
Fortunately, smaller companies are moving in and creating some good games, giving the people what they want. But this is basically the end of big games. I don’t think Cyberpunk is going to live up to the hype, but even if it does, it will be the last such game. I don’t think Grand Theft Auto 6 can be made due to the politics of the current year.
This would be a great time for the Chinese to come in. Tencent is the biggest game company in the world, technically, though no one in any Western country can name a game they’ve made. They could be making our games for us. They don’t have politics, and they’re not stupid – they understand MONEY.
But why would China make games for Westerners, after having had TikTok stolen from them? What is to keep the US government from just stealing their games, too?
So they probably shouldn’t waste their time.