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Blizzard workers voice frustration after reportedly rough Q&A

Activision Blizzard is backing statements made by president Mike Ybarra

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Internal issues at Activision Blizzard are carrying over into public forums. Following a company-wide Q&A with Blizzard president Mike Ybarra, workers have been voicing their frustrations online, as Activision Blizzard backs Ybarra’s statements.

Details of the meeting were shared with Game Developer, who reports that the company-wide Q&A was scheduled to cover the results of an employee satisfaction survey. As part of the meeting, Ybarra and studio executives answered pre-screened questions about several topics, including the stack ranking that recently drew ire and rolling back remote work practices. Employees were also told they’d receive only 58% of their profit-sharing bonus.

As part of the meeting, Ybarra reportedly downplayed the use of a stack ranking policy that engineer Brian Birmingham left the company over. A Blizzard spokesperson confirmed the Q+A took place and that comments provided to Game Developer were accurate, while also saying Ybarra did not directly reference Birmingham’s comments.

The spokesperson gave the following explanation of Ybarra’s comments, which Game Developer reports lines up with its sources’ sentiments on the meeting:

“We don’t to stack rank employees 1 through X at Blizzard. We have high expectations for our teams. Managers set goals with every employee and we measure performance against those goals. We provide managers with guidelines for how to consider performance ratings across larger teams to ensure they’re more fair and unbiased, and there is flexibility.

“Leadership provides feedback across the company to ensure that ratings are not solely based on one manager’s opinion. Performance management is every manager’s job, it isn’t an easy one, and we appreciate them.”

Frustrations leak online

Further comments from Ybarra drew frustration from employees, though. Multiple sources tell Game Developer that Ybarra said something to the effect of “if you think that executives are making a lot of money and you aren’t, you’re living in a myth.”

In regards to return-to-office plans, Ybarra said: “At the end of the day we want people to be happy, and if decisions about being happy don’t align with where we’re going, and you won’t be happy, then you’ll have to do what will make [you] happy.”

Additionally, Ybarra made a comment that “some of our disciplines are not long-term disciplines,” which employees interpreted as in reference to quality assurance and customer service. The Blizzard spokesperson told Game Developer that the comment was not made in reference to any specific department, and gave the following clarification:

“Roles at Blizzard have different compensation levels. We encourage and support people in lower-compensation roles to further develop skills and expertise that allow for greater opportunity and rewards for them.

“This was meant to include a broad swath entry/junior level roles and was not targeted at our talented CS or QA teams who play important roles in serving our players. We appreciate the important roles our QA and CS teams play in serving the players.”

These statements arrive in the wake of several unionization efforts within Activision Blizzard, with the shadow of the initial lawsuit and the reports on the company’s internal culture that came out after.

What’s quite notable is that after the meeting, employees took to public forums to vent their frustrations. While Game Developer spoke with some, others were actively posting their issues online.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Game Developer that “Blizzard stands by each of these statements and we’re proud of Mike’s leadership in tough moments.”


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Eric Van Allen
Senior Editor - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.