Just because Activision is absorbing Call of Duty and World of Warcraft money at an atomic level doesn’t mean the company can avoid cutting jobs.
The massive third-party publisher laid off around 30 employees today. At least a portion of the affected jobs were at Call of Duty: Black Ops II developer Treyarch. Activision cites a desire to realign for upcoming market realities as the catalyst for these cuts.
The publisher released the following statement to Kotaku:
Like any successful business, Activision Publishing consistently works to align its costs with its revenues—this is an ongoing process. In 2013, we expect to release fewer games based on license properties and as a result are realigning our structure to better reflect the market opportunities and our slate. Approximately, 30 full-time employees have been impacted globally, which represents approximately one half of one percent of Activision Blizzard’s employee population. We are offering those employees who are impacted outplacement counseling services.
The Treyarch layoffs seem to fit with the standard cyclical hiring-and-firing nature of game development. The studio finished Black Ops II, the downloadable content doesn’t require as much manpower, and the next Treyarch Call of Duty game isn’t due until late 2014.
As for licensed games, Activision is responding to a widely observed trend in the market. These days, licensed titles have a greater impact on iOS and Android than they do on gaming consoles. It’s a big risk for a publisher to pay for the rights to make a triple-A game.