A studio based in Versailles, France, once an operation that belonged to Blizzard back when it was still part of Vivendi, is now set to be closed by Activision Blizzard. As Blizzard's only outpost in the country and, up until recent restructuring, one concerned solely with Blizzard's output, the closure may be devastating not only to the hundreds of employees affected, but to Blizzard's fans in the region.
Bloomberg broke news of the closure today, reporting that the decision came after talk of relocating half of the studio fell through due to external factors, at least in part. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and issues stemming from Brexit interfered with Activision Blizzard's plans to have employees move from the Versailles studio to an office in London. Located near Paris, the studio largely handled localization and other language-dependent tasks.
Already, 134 of the studio's then-400 person team were laid off early last year, in a brutal round of downsizing that saw Activision Blizzard axe 800 positions in total. That same day, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick also reported that "financial results for 2018 were the best in [the company's] history," a factoid that also made a subsequent boost to shareholder dividends that much harder to stomach in light of the layoffs.
The move to close the Versailles studio will likely invite more criticism of Kotick's management of Activision Blizzard. This summer, CtW Investment Group put out a public letter to its fellow Activision Blizzard shareholders that highlighted the massive disparity between Kotick's multimillion dollar compensation and the pay for a typical company employee.
Employee pay has also been a hotly discussed topic within Blizzard of late. In August, another Bloomberg report revealed the existence of a spreadsheet said to contain the salaries of dozens of Blizzard employees, shared amongst workers at the company. Some Blizzard employees said they needed to adopt drastic cost-saving measures regarding food just to get by. Most of the alleged raises reported in the spreadsheet were lower than 10 percent.
Next year, the upcoming BlizzConline (where Blizzard will likely share news on Overwatch 2, Diablo 4, and more) will fall close to the two-year anniversary of the massive 2019 layoffs across Activision Blizzard. With another year's financial reports presumably hitting just before then, everyone will want to see if Kotick and other execs say the company's reached a point where it can rethink employee compensation—or, if it can at least bring the layoff cycles to an end.