Activision Blizzard Inc. has announced the hiring of about 1,100 full-time U.S.-based quality assurance employees. Video game publisher Activision has been criticized for years due to its reliance on part-time employees and their poor working conditions.
According to Activision, the change will increase headcount at the publishing division by 25% and boost minimum wages to $20 an hour. Additionally, the employees will be eligible for full benefits.
In December, Activision converted 500 temporary roles to full-time positions while also ending 20 contracts. Outrage ensued over the job cuts, spurring a union push from a contingent of quality assurance testers at Raven Software, the Activision-owned studio that works on Call of Duty games. After Activision refused to recognize a union at Raven, the National Labor Relations Board in February heard arguments from both sides but hasn’t issued a ruling yet.
“This change follows a process that began last year” across Activision Publishing and Blizzard, a spokesperson said in a statement.
As a result of legal requirements under the National Labor Relations Act, Activision Blizzard’s spokesperson said Raven workers will not receive new pay initiatives. The spokesperson added that “whether Raven workers choose to unionize has nothing to do with the salary increases Activision’s QA employees received.” A representative for the Communications Workers of America, which represents Raven, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Josh Taub, Chief Operating Officer at Activision, acknowledged in an email to staff on Thursday that Call of Duty has changed from an annual release schedule to a “always on” model. With this change, the company has also “grown our workforce and support across all of our studios.” The integration of quality assurance workers will help activision Blizzard’s service-game model, where a title is supported indefinitely with regular updates rather than a one-time purchase.
“External partners” will provide QA support to Activision Blizzard as part of a “long-standing studio and industry practice.”
Jobs in quality assurance are considered entry-level positions in the video game industry. These workers have, however, complained of low wages, overwork and uncertainty regarding the length of their contracts.