Activision Blizzard, the entertainment leviathan formed when Activision merged with Blizzard parent Vivendi Games in 2007, has boasted of its best financial year on record - and is celebrating by laying off nearly 800 of its staff.
Activision Blizzard's performance for its 2018 financial year, which handily maps to the calendar year, was off the charts: The company boasted of $2.381 billion in net revenue in the fourth quarter alone, up from $2.043 billion for the same period a year prior and above $2.236 billion guidance, bringing it to a $7.5 billion revenue for the year as a whole, up from $7.017 billion for the year prior. In short: It was a good year for Activision Blizzard.
Chief executive Bobby Kotick, who boasts a personal fortune of around $7 billion and whose personal income for the last year sat just below $30 million, isn't happy, however: 'While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realise our full potential,' Kotick claims. 'To help us reach our full potential, we have made a number of important leadership changes. These changes should enable us to achieve the many opportunities our industry affords us, especially with our powerful owned franchises, our strong commercial capabilities, our direct digital connections to hundreds of millions of players, and our extraordinarily talented employees.'
What Kotick was less keen to highlight was a cost-cutting plan in which Activision Blizzard is to lay off 775 of its employees, around eight percent of its overall workforce, on the back of what Kotick himself has described as 'the best [financial results] in our history'. The majority of those staff, Activision Blizzard has claimed, will come from its support staff rather than development staff - and, in fact, the company is eager to increase staffing on that front, pledging to increase its development staff by around 20 percent as it focuses on properties including Call of Duty, Diablo, Warcraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and mobile time-sink Candy Crush.
Activision Blizzard has been pilloried by Variety for the timing of the layoffs, which come immediately after the company splashed out to hire the entirety of Disneyland Florida for its staff - a move described by the outlet as 'either a lovely send off for employees the company knew would be leaving just a month later or a waste of money that could have been used to retain a few more of those laid off'. Kotick himself has also come under fire, with independent game developer Ian McEachern posting a Twitter thread in which he calculates that Kotick could 'pay 700 people enough money to put them all in the 1%, from now until the end of time' purely from the interest earned on his current wealth.
The layoffs come a month after the announcement that Bungie was exiting the ten-year contract with Activision Blizzard for the Destiny franchise two years early, with financial terms not disclosed. Activision Blizzard's share price, meanwhile, rose nearly three percent in after-market trading on top of a near-four percent gain it had made during the day.
January 24 2020 | 12:00