Activision Blizzard, Where Massive Layoffs Are a First Resort

Activision Blizzard, Where Massive Layoffs Are a First Resort

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Bobby Kotick's reputation takes another hit, Sony acknowledges its hubris, and skipping Steam is paying off for The Division

It's been a weird week. I spent the first bit of it at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas, where the face of Sony game development got on stage to celebrate Microsoft and Nintendo before trash-talking the PS3. Then the acting president of the Entertainment Software Association chose a casino as the proper place to make his first public address to the industry about how gaming disorders don't exist.

And then there were the Activision Blizzard layoffs, which had been widely reported as in the works to the point where it felt hyped like a Nintendo Direct, but for heartbreaking and personally devastating news. (Please hold your comments, people who don't like the Link's Awakening remake art style.) One person I was eating lunch with at DICE excused himself from the table a few minutes before the quarterly earnings dropped so he could go see if his friends still had jobs.

And that was just Tuesday. There was so much news this week that could have led one of these columns on a normal week, from the incredible overnight success of Apex Legends to ESA board member and Sony exec Shawn Layden calling on E3 to ditch the trade show angle and go full-on fanfest, to The Division 2's early returns from the decision to skip Steam. I've got no great over-arching theme or takeaway to offer here, so let's just dig right in.

QUOTE | "While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn't realize our full potential." - Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announces record financial results for the company simultaneously with mass layoffs of about 800 employees.

QUOTE | "I think the goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks that we brought in to Activision 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games. I think we definitely have been able to instill the culture, the skepticism and pessimism and fear that you should have in an economy like we are in today. And so, while generally people talk about the recession, we are pretty good at keeping people focused on the deep depression." - A quote from Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick nine years ago that speaks volumes about his management approach in light of this week's layoffs.

QUOTE | "Our members want a healthy, productive, and compelling environment for all of their employees and all the people who work for them. And we've seen efforts to ensure the workplace is a healthy place to be. I'm not sure what I can say beyond that because that's what we've seen in working with our members. We know that's the goal they each have." - In an interview published just a few hours before the axe fell at Activision Blizzard, Entertainment Software Association acting president Stanley Pierre-Louis stands by the industry's track record on working conditions and labor issues.

STAT | 8.4 million - Hours of Apex Legends viewed on Twitch Tuesday, according to Twitch tracker Gamoloco. The highest single-day viewing number for Fortnite is 7.2 million hours, achieved at the Season 5 launch last July.

STAT | 25 million - Number of Apex Legends players in the game's first week of release. The Respawn-developed free-to-play battle royale game peaked with 2 million concurrent users in its debut week.

QUOTE | "Working with talented people and giving them freedom is way better than working with idiots and controlling every step they make." - Metro 2033 author Dmitry Glukhovsky explains his working relationship with 4A Games, developer of the Metro gaming franchise.

QUOTE | "A stark moment of hubris in the nearly 25 years of PlayStation history." - Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden describes the PlayStation 3 as a low point for the company.

QUOTE | "Hubris isn't something you defeat once. Modesty and humility are easy when you've just been knocked down, and harder to maintain when you're on top." -'s Rob Fahey suggests that Sony's current attitude toward cross-play suggests the company hasn't shaken those PS3-era attitudes completely.

QUOTE | "June, now, is just too late to have a Christmas holiday discussion with retailers. So retail has really dropped off. And journalists now, with the internet and the fact that 24/7 there is game news, it's lost its impact around that. So the trade show became a trade show without a lot of trade activity. The world has changed, but E3 hasn't necessarily changed with it." - In an interview where he discusses Sony's absence from the show, Layden suggests that E3 should turn into a fan festival.

QUOTE | "Early indications are supportive, as PC pre-orders are higher than for the first Division, and pre-orders on the Ubisoft store are six times higher. We believe this deal is a long-term positive for Ubisoft." - Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot says the decision to put The Division 2 on Epic Games store but not Steam seems to have been a good one.

QUOTE | "Consumers simply do not have any more free time to allocate to new attention seeking digital entertainment propositions, which means they have to start prioritising between them." - MIDia Research's Karol Severin says publishers who blame Fortnite for their declining engagement numbers are ignoring greater competition like video streaming, digital news, podcasts, music, social media and e-commerce.

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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