One employee then created a spreadsheet and encouraged staff to share their compensation information. The anonymous document, reviewed by Bloomberg News, contains dozens of purported Blizzard salaries and pay bumps. Most of the raises are below 10%, significantly less than Blizzard employees said they expected following the study.
As Blizzard pays a fair amount of positions through hourly wages instead of annual salary (including some Game Developer positions), employees find themselves leaning on overtime to make ends meet. While the hourly salary setup isn’t necessarily a bad method of payment, if the base amount is too low for cost-of-living and the hourly raises are extremely small, workers run into problems:
One veteran Blizzard employee told Bloomberg News they received a raise of less than 50 cents an hour. They are making less now than they did almost a decade ago because they are working fewer overtime hours than they did back then.
Southern California is filled with game studios–in Irvine alone, Blizzard competes with Carbine and Amazon, as well as companies adjacent to the industry like Razer and Twitch OC. And nearby Los Angeles is filled with competition in games and entertainment, most notably Riot, which offers more-attractive wages for similar game industry positions.
Several former Blizzard employees said they only received significant pay increases after leaving for other companies, such as nearby rival Riot Games Inc. in Los Angeles.
Back in June, you may have noticed the #gamedevpaidme hashtag, which brought to light pay disparities in major game studios, such as Blizzard. While some of the salaries may seem desirable on paper, it’s important to remember that Southern California has an extremely-high cost of living. Due to the spread-out nature of city planning and ongoing traffic problems, employees don’t have much of a choice where to live if they want to have a sensible commute into the office, leading to constant sacrifices to make ends meet.
In internal messages reviewed by Bloomberg News, Blizzard employees said they were struggling to make ends meet while watching Activision Blizzard revenue grow year after year. One employee wrote that they had to skip meals to pay rent and that they used the company’s free coffee as an appetite suppressant. Another said they would only eat oatmeal and bail on team lunches because they couldn’t afford to buy food at the company cafeteria. A third said they and their partner stopped talking about having kids because they knew they wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Activision Blizzard had the following to say on the situation:
This year, Blizzard top performers received a salary increase that was 20% more than in prior years, and more people got promotions, Taylor added.
Back in 2019, Activision Blizzard laid off 8% of its workforce while also announcing record profits. That same year, Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick received $40 million in compensation.
While it may be every fan’s dream to work for a video game company, it’s important to still know your worth and be compensated fairly instead of being exploited for passion. If you are a former or current Blizzard employee that wants to discuss wage disparity, the original reporter’s email is [email protected].