In what is becoming a regular story in the video game industry news cycle, Activision Blizzard has followed up strong earnings reports with layoffs.
This time, Bloomberg is reporting that the publisher behind Call of Duty and Overwatch is shutting down its Versailles office in France. The office employed approximately 400. The departments most impacted by this latest round of layoffs are customer service, marketing, and localization.
Activision Blizzard previously planned to relocate a significant portion of the workers at the office to London, but England’s withdrawal from the European Union and other circumstances made this plan untenable. The company has not commented on the matter, and it is unclear how many of the Versailles-based employees will be left jobless.
Blizzard was long one of the most popular developers in all of video games. The StarCraft, Warcraft, and Diablo franchises are widely beloved and have enormous followings. On top of this, the studio was able to attract talented artists and developers through its strong reputation.
The last few years have seen that reputation almost entirely shattered. Though some of the early hostility directed at Blizzard may have stemmed from fan entitlement, the reality quickly caught up with the perception.
Throughout 2017 and 2018, Blizzard began pruning down its staff regularly. In early 2019, this was followed by an enormous mass layoff that saw 800 employees released after the company announced record profits. This was followed by another round of layoffs just a month later.
Things went from bad to worse later in the year when Blizzard was embroiled in an international controversy for its handling of Hearthstone player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung after he voiced support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Blizzard handed him a lengthy suspension and significant fine, and refused to either apologize or backpedal.
2020 then kicked off with Warcraft 3: Reforged being one of the worst-reviewed games in history. This stemmed from the developer failing to follow through on most of its announced changes to the game, as well as numerous performance issues that came with it.
The continued troubles at Blizzard don’t show any sign of slowing down, either. The only question is whether the launch Overwatch 2 can help the company rebuild some of its wavering credibility with fans.