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Activision Blizzard to convert 1,100 QA contract workers to full-time in wake of unionization efforts

Activision Blizzard Walkout Voice Always Matters
Activision Blizzard Walkout Voice Always Matters (Image credit: Carli Velocci / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • According to a new report, Activision Blizzard is converting 1,100 QA staff into full-time employees.
  • The company is also raising QA wages to at least $20 per hour.
  • QA workers at Wisconsin studio Raven Software have been seeking recognition as a union.
  • Activision Blizzard is in the process of being acquired by Microsoft.

Update, April 7 (4:53 pm ET): Per Bloomberg, this won't include any Raven QA who have been working to unionize.

Publisher Activision Blizzard is making a big step towards listening to complaints from works, particularly quality assurance (QA) testers.

According to Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier, Activision Blizzard is converting 1,100 QA workers into full-time employees, with pay increased to at least $20 per hour. This comes as Raven Software QA employees have been seeking recognition as a union, ending a strike back on Jan. 22, 2022.

Activision Blizzard is also currently in the process of being acquired by Microsoft for almost $69 billion. The deal is currently slated to close at some time before June 2023, and will add Activision Blizzard as an Xbox first-party publisher alongside Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks.

"Across Activision Blizzard, we are bringing more content to players across our franchises than ever before," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson confirmed to Windows Central. "As a result, we are refining how our teams work together to develop our games and deliver 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."

"As Call of Duty evolves, we anticipate periods where the workload will fluctuate and exceed our expanded team's bandwidth," Head of Activision publishing Josh Taub wrote in an email to employees. "With this in mind, we're adding extra support for our team from external partners. This is a long-standing studio and industry practice that will give us more flexibility and capacity to support the business needs and enable our internal teams to focus on the results that most impact our business."

In an email to Blizzard Entertainment staff, head of Blizzard Mike Ybarra wrote that "Over the last 6 months, I've had the opportunity to listen and engage with members of our QA team and we've had several meetings where I outlined my philosophy about contract/full-time roles. I want to thank everyone who helped educate me and expressed their views on how we can make Blizzard the best player-focused game studio. We all know QA is integral to our success in ensuring the best possible gameplay experiences."

Multiple Blizzard Entertainment games have been delayed in the last few months, including action role-playing game Diablo 4 and hero shooter Overwatch 2. Activision Blizzard recently noted attrition across its teams, with news related to the ongoing lawsuit making hiring more difficult.

Update, April 7 (4:53 pm ET) — Raven QA unionizers not included

Bloomberg notes that these raises won't apply for members of Raven Software QA who are working to unionize. According to Activision Blizzard, this is "due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act."

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

3 Comments
  • "This comes as Raven Software QA employees have been seeking recognition as a union, ending a strike back on Jan. 22, 2022." But those were FT employees, right? So adding 1000+ full-time employees could swamp the influence of the handful of FT QA people who were labor agitators. It may not help the labor demands at all.
  • The tech industry is terrified of unions. They know how bad they treat us, which is why Amazon is challenging the results of the union vote in NY, even though it wasn't actually close. It's past time to unionize.
  • I am for your unionization drive, but I think we should be realistic about why this is happening now. It's because the labor market is already tight, and workers in general have more bargaining power. Things could change quickly. Interest rates are already rising quickly, the housing market is cooling, and there are other signs of an impending slowdown (though not necessarily a recession). That could cool the labor market and reduce worker bargaining power. Plus, specific to A-B, Microsoft's acquisition could result in reorganization that again dilutes the power of labor organizers. Point is, things for organized labor in tech (and elsewhere) could get harder very soon.