US tech union praises completion of Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition, says it represents a 'milestone' for improving labor in gaming

Activision Blizzard joins Xbox October 2023
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft finalized its acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion on Oct. 13, 2023, adding a large number of studios and games to the Xbox first-party roster. 
  • In working to complete this deal, Microsoft previously signed a binding contract to remain neutral in worker unionization efforts. 
  • Earlier in 2023, over 300 quality assurance workers at ZeniMax Media unionized under Microsoft.
  • The Communication Workers of America, a labor union representing tech workers, has praised Microsoft's acquisition, saying it represents a "milestone" for improving working conditions in the gaming industry. 

There's a lot of question now that the biggest acquisition in video game history is done, but unions are happy. 

In a press release, the Communication Workers of America (CWA), a tech and media union, praised the completion of Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a deal worth almost $69 billion.

“It is a new day for workers at Activision Blizzard,” said CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. “Over two years ago, workers at Activision Blizzard’s studios captured the country’s attention through walkouts and other protests over discrimination, sexual harassment, pay inequity, and other issues they were facing on the job. Their efforts to form unions were met with illegal retaliation and attempts to delay and block union elections."

"Now these workers are free to join our union through a fair process, without interference from management. Microsoft’s high-road approach should be the norm across the industry.”

Under the neutrality agreement, there is a 60 day waiting period that began today. Once this waiting period is done, Activision Blizzard employees will be free to unionize and discuss labor organization without any kind of reprisals. If any disagreements arise, Microsoft and the CWA are also committed to working together for immediate solutions.

This 60-day waiting period also neatly fits with the upcoming departure of Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who is staying on the company through the end of the year. 

Activision Blizzard encompasses numerous studios and 10,000 workers. (Image credit: Activision Publishing)

While big tech and large gaming publishers have often taken union-busting measures when faced with organizing workers, Microsoft signed a neutrality agreement in 2022, agreeing to not interfere with any unionization attempts. As a result, when over 300 quality assurance (QA) testers at ZeniMax Media voted to unionize, the process was expedited and the union was quickly formed.

“Every Activision Blizzard worker should take advantage of this opportunity to have a legally-protected voice,” said Dylan Burton, a QA at id Software and CWA union member.

“Management may come and go but a union contract means that no matter who is in charge, the standards are the same and they have to treat you with respect. During our union organizing campaign, Microsoft was true to its word. We were able to decide for ourselves, and no one faced any retaliation for supporting the union.”

Analysis: A bright future amidst the uncertainty

There are a lot of questions that aren't going to be answered for a long time, but it's telling that the unions and Activision Blizzard employees I've spoken too are happy about this acquisition. Workers suffered for years under Bobby Kotick's leadership, and while unions aren't a guarantee of never having problems, it'll provide massive protections that simply weren't present before. 

For any Activision Blizzard workers who are interested in unionizing, you can go ahead and start registering your interest with the CWA at this link

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

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.