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Call of Duty: Warzone QA workers continue walkout in protest of layoffs

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Contract workers were laid off last week

two players in Call of Duty: Warzone rush toward a helicopter Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

Workers at Raven Software, the studio behind development of Call of Duty: Warzone, will walk out of work Monday after the Activision Blizzard-owned studio laid off 12 quality assurance contractors last week.

“The Raven QA team and other members of Raven’s staff will be walking out with a singular demand,” Raven Software workers said in a statement sent to press. “Every member of the QA team, including those terminated on Friday, must be offered full time positions.” The workers added that they’re demonstrating “with the continued success of the studio at the forefront of their mind[s].”

Activision acquired Raven Software in 1997, and the Wisconsin-based studio that works on Call of Duty games, like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, alongside other Activision Blizzard studios. The QA team is largely focused on Call of Duty: Warzone, representatives said.

Ahead of the layoffs, workers said they were told by management that departmental changes were coming, albeit positive ones. Instead, workers saw QA workers laid off — with others unsure about their own positions — after “five weeks of overtime and before an anticipated end of the year crunch.” More than 30% of the team has been eliminated, workers said. Remaining workers expect to earn $1.50 more per hour, as well as bonuses and more benefits, according to the Washington Post.

Activision Blizzard’s worker solidarity group, called ABK Workers Alliance, posted on Twitter that several laid off employees relocated to Wisconsin, without financial assistance, to work at Raven.

Raven Software is leading work on Call of Duty: Warzone as Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s final multiplayer season comes to a close, and the free-to-play game switches to Call of Duty: Vanguard. This week, a new Warzone map will debut, called Caldera, to replace Warzone’s Verdansk map. Activision Blizzard saw major success for the Call of Duty franchise in 2020; last year, the company reported that Call of Duty brought in $3 billion. In 2019, Activision Blizzard laid of nearly 800 people as it brought in “record results.”

In August, Activision Blizzard QA workers spoke out about demanding work, low pay, and intense crunch. Often considered contract workers, without the protection of full-time employment, QA staff are often in a precarious spot — workers told Polygon they feel undervalued and exploited.

Activision Blizzard workers have since walked off the job multiple times since California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed its lawsuit, alleging sexual harassment and a toxic culture at the company — the first walkout was in July, follow by another in November. A Wall Street Journal report in November sparked the second walkout, after the Journal reported CEO Bobby Kotick knew about harassment and assault allegations and downplayed them. Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Microsoft have internally expressed concern over the allegations.

Activision Blizzard is currently facing multiple lawsuits and a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. One of its lawsuits, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was settled for $18 million earlier this year.

Update: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Polygon it is “converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months.” Twenty contracted workers will not have their contracts renewed.

Here’s the company’s statement, in full:

Activision Publishing is growing its overall investment in its development and operations resources. We are converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months. Unfortunately, as part of this change, we also have notified 20 temporary workers across studios that their contracts would not be extended.

Update (Dec. 7): Raven Software QA workers, joined by QA workers at Activision Blizzard’s Texas, Minnesota, and California offices, will continue their walkout for a second day in a row, organizers told Polygon.

“Today workers from Raven QA are walking out for the second day in a row,” a representative tweeted from the ABK Workers Alliance Twitter account. “They are joined by workers from QATX, QAMN, and Blizzard QA. These workers are standing in solidarity with the statement Raven QA put forward yesterday. They are using the social media hashtag #WeAreRaven”