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Activision Blizzard announced it is converting all of its U.S.-based temporary quality assurance (QA) workers — about 1,100 people — into full-time employees. It is also increasing their hourly rates to a minimum of $20, starting April 17, and will give them access to benefits.
The company provided GamesBeat with two copies of emails sent to employees. Activision Publishing COO Josh Taub says, “QA is, and continues to be, critical to our development success. We have amazing QA teams in place that work hard to ensure our players have the best possible gaming experiences — thank you!”
He added, “As Call of Duty evolves, we anticipate periods where the workload will fluctuate and exceed our expanded team’s bandwidth. 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.”
Mike Ybarra, head of Blizzard, said in a separate email, “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.”
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Activision’s QA testers have demanded change
This is part of an ongoing narrative within the company concerning its QA testers. Raven Software, an Activision-owned studio, laid off several of its QA staff last December. This is apparently in spite of the fact that the game they were working on, Call of Duty: Warzone, was one of the most important and lucrative in the company’s library.
The QA team at Raven went on strike shortly thereafter and in January formed the Game Workers Alliance (GWA) union. Activision Blizzard reorganized the department within days, allegedly in an attempt to split up the union-forming team members (the company said it was a staffing decision that’d been made months earlier). It also refused to recognize the union. The GWA demanded better pay, transparency, and more stable working conditions.
Notably, the unionizing workers also demanded that Activision rehire the 12 Raven workers it had previously laid off as full-time staff members. At the time of writing, it is not clear if those workers have been rehired.
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