Over one hundred staff at Blizzard’s Cork based customer services centre will leave later this month, accepting an offer of a year’s pay to do so. The voluntary offer has been proposed to staff on as much as five separate occasions with the payment offer increasing each time.
Sources have chosen to remain anonymous to keep goodwill in any future career prospects. However, one such source having taken up the offer has stated:
"It was too good to pass up. This is voluntary, do not get me wrong. But when you see a pile of cash in front of you, over and over again, you start to lose hope and cannot see a great situation ahead."
The statement follows an overall feeling of discomfort in the Cork office and throughout Blizzard in general, as these jobs often see entire families uprooting and moving so the position can be filled. For those people, this offer is likely less enticing that it would be to someone with less ties.
Adding to the tension is the rearranging of staff shifts in the wake of such a loss of staff. Many will be made to work hours that they are either unaccustomed to or simply cannot cater to due to other life commitments. This knock-on effect is already showing the damage of Blizzard’s voluntary offer as on December 19th, Blizzard announced its live chat service would be closing for English speaking European customers, leaving them to the mercy of a slower ticket-and-message system.
Blizzard has also stated this voluntary leave scheme is nothing new for the company.
"The employees who are choosing to leave the company later this month are taking advantage of a voluntary and longstanding program we offer in various locations around the world. This program, which has proven popular in the past, gives eligible staff the option to make the most of incentives while proactively pursuing other career opportunities. No one is required or encouraged to participate in this program, but for those who do, we work hard to make it generous."
This begs the question as to why we’re seeing such large numbers taking up the offer so suddenly. A direct answer to this is not currently available but many believe it is a side effect of today’s gaming recession. It’s no secret that a majority of AAA publishers have taken a big hit in the earnings calls of 2018. Blizzard is no exception to this as their stocks continue to plummet nearing the end of the year, leading to tension with partner company, Activision.
Despite the successful launch of Activision’s Black Ops 4, the overall player count for Activision Blizzard titles has dropped from 352 to 345 million players. Which may not seem like much but this means 7 million players becoming newly disinterested in what Activision Blizzard has to offer. The knock-on effect of that is Activision Blizzard losing a whopping 25% of stocks’ worth. This problem (which is also happening at EA) could easily spook investors, leading to these companies’ feet being cut out from under them in a snowballing financial effect.
Naturally, this has led to a desire at Blizzard to cut costs, ironically leading to the ‘full years’ pay’ incentive. As a silver lining, this is preferable to the harsh layoffs at Telltale Games we saw earlier this year, leaving staff out in the cold. Despite this, concerns remain over Blizzard’s intent to approach 2019 as a “lean” year.