Activision Blizzard will convert all of its US-based temporary and contingent Quality Assurance (QA) positions to full-time positions, the company announced Thursday. Nearly 1,100 employees will join Activision Blizzard full-time, increasing pay to a minimum of $20 an hour and giving QA staff access to bonuses and all benefits.
Mike Ybarra, chief operating officer of Activision Publishing and head of Blizzard Entertainment, shared the news with employees on Thursday.
“Across Activision Blizzard, we’re bringing more content to players in our franchises than ever before,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Polygon. “As a result, we are refining how our teams work together to develop our games and provide our players with the best possible experiences. We have ambitious plans for the future and our Quality Assurance (QA) team members are a critical part of our development efforts.”
Transitioning all US-based QA employees to full-time employment increases Activision Publishing’s total full-time workforce by 25%. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said that both Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment will continue to use “external partner support” for QA staff as “workloads increase and exceed the team’s bandwidth.”
Activision Blizzard sent the two emails to Polygon employees:
Email to AP US staff from Josh Taub, Chief Operating Officer, Activision Publishing
By: Josh Taub
Subject line: Update on QA
in the last two years, call of Duty has expanded and evolved. Our development cycles have evolved from an annual release to an “always-on” model. In response to the increased engagement, we have expanded our live services business across all platforms. Our offers now include Season Passes, Operators and the amazing content available in our stores. We’ve also expanded our workforce and support at our studios, along with exciting new plans for mobile.
In light of these changes and in view of our ambitious plans for the future, we continue to refine the way our development teams work together. QA is and will remain crucial to our development success. We have fantastic QA teams working hard to give our players the best gaming experience possible – thank you!
I’m pleased to announce that we are converting all US-based contract and contract QA employees to full-time employees (FTEs). We increase their hourly rate to a minimum of $20 per hour and provide access to all company benefits and they are eligible to participate in the company’s loyalty program.
This change follows the conversion of nearly 500 temporary and temporary employees to full-time permanent employees at Activision Publishing’s studios and other ongoing transformations that have taken place over the past few months.
When call of Duty As we continue to evolve, we anticipate periods when workloads will fluctuate and exceed the range of our extended team. With this in mind, we are adding additional external partner support to our team. This is a longstanding studio and industry practice that gives us greater flexibility and capacity to support business needs and allows our internal teams to focus on the outcomes that most impact our business.
Together we will change the game and take over call of Duty to the next level.
Email to Blizzard staff from Mike Ybarra, Head of Blizzard
By: Mike Ybarra
Subject: Delivering Blizzard Quality: QA Full-Time Conversions
We have shared with many of you the exciting experiences we are bringing to players in 2022 and beyond. So much happens on our teams – and this is just the beginning of our renewed focus on putting our teams and players first in everything we do.
Our ability to deliver great games with the “Blizzard Quality” our players have come to expect is critical to ensuring we exceed player expectations. Over the past 6 months I have had the opportunity to listen to and engage with members of our QA team and we have had several meetings where I have outlined my philosophy on contract/full time roles. I want to thank everyone who has helped me educate myself and shared their views on how we can make Blizzard the best player-centric games studio. We all know that QA is an essential part of our success in ensuring the best gaming experiences possible.
Some time ago, QA leadership began changing their approach to staffing the team, converting more temporary and contract workers (TEAs) into full-time employees (FTEs) and using partners to handle short-term peaks in workload. Today, that approach culminates in the conversion of all remaining US-based TEAs/quality assurance contractors – 90+ people in Irvine, Austin and Albany – into FTEs. We’re also raising the minimum hourly rate for QA to $20/hour and they’re eligible for our loyalty program and increased benefits.
We have amazing QA talent and I’m really excited about this change so we can focus on players around the world and get results. If you have any questions, please contact me, your HR partner or Wladia Summers.
Thank you for your feedback and support for this change.
The 1,100 new full-time positions are in addition to the 500 new full-time positions that were converted last year. At that point, however, 20 temp workers at Activision Blizzard’s studios were told their contracts weren’t included — 12 of whom continued to work Call of Duty: Warzone at Raven Software. This sparked a strike that eventually led to Raven Software’s union push for quality assurance at the Communication Workers of America. The group, called the Game Workers Alliance, had the support of 78% of eligible workers, but Activision Blizzard refused to recognize the union. This group is now awaiting a decision from the National Labor Relations Board before turning to an official union vote. During this hearing, union leaders accused the company of “union busting”.
It’s currently unclear how Activision Blizzard’s QA expansion will impact Raven Software’s unionization efforts.
QA has historically been incorrectly referred to as an unskilled department in the video game industry. In August, Activision Blizzard Polygon’s QA staff explained that the QA contract cycles created a system that made it difficult for workers to advance in their careers or feel stable, in addition to the low pay and intense crisis. Raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour and largely eliminating the contract structure is a win for workers who have been fighting for change within the company.
Update (3:12 p.m. EDT): after release, Bloomberg News reports that Raven Software’s QA staff would not receive the same raises. Activision Blizzard confirmed this in a statement emailed to Polygon: “Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we cannot introduce new pay initiatives at Raven at this time, as these would represent new types of compensation changes.”
The Activision Blizzard spokesperson also said that the QA conversion “is unrelated to the pending petition at Raven Studio. The Raven situation is limited to Raven.”
Update (3:44 p.m. EDT): Communications Workers of America Secretary and Treasurer Sara Steffens made the following statement to the press regarding the QA transition:
Make no mistake, all credit for Activision Blizzard’s recent move to give all temporary and contingent QA team members full-time employment and a pay rise should go to the workers who organized, mobilized, and spoke up.
What is particularly annoying is that Activision has excluded Raven Software QA staff who have been at the forefront of this effort from these benefits. The company’s claim that the National Labor Relations Act prevents them from incorporating Raven workers is clearly an attempt to divide workers and undermine their efforts to form a union (Game Workers Alliance – CWA). Activision’s disingenuous announcement is further evidence that workers need a protected voice in the workplace. We urge Activision Blizzard to rectify this situation and respect the Raven QA workers’ proprietary right to organize.