Update: Striking QA testers at Call of Duty: Warzone developer Raven Software have formed a union with the Communication Workers of America, and are asking Activision to voluntarily recognize it.
The Game Workers Alliance is made up of 34 workers (via Jason Schreier on Twitter), primarily from Raven's QA team. In a statement via Polygon, the GWA said that “we ask that Activision Blizzard management respect Raven QA workers by voluntarily recognizing CWA’s representation without hesitation. A collective bargaining agreement will give Raven QA employees a voice at work, improving the games they produce and making the company stronger. Voluntary recognition is the rational way forward.”
Quality Assurance is an essential part of any software development process. However, Quality Assurance Testers are consistently undervalued, undercompensated, and overworked. (1/2)January 21, 2022
Raven developers began an ongoing strike on December 6. While Raven said that it had recently opened lines of communication with staff, who walked out over the decision to make several contracted members of QA staff redundant, workers told The Washington Post that their strike had no end date, and management was yet to respond to their demands.
The union is only the second in the North American video games industry - behind indie developer Vodeo Games - and the first to stem from a major studio. The announcement comes just after Microsoft's acquisition of Raven parent company Activision.
Original story: Most of the quality assurance team working on Call of Duty: Warzone are striking in protest of a large number of surprise layoffs that began last week.
According to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, "most of a team of around 40 QA testers [...] are walking off the job to protest a sudden layoff that began on Friday. They say they'll be walking out until the layoff is reversed." A statement from the group posted on Twitter via CharlieIntel and Axios reporter Stephen Totilo backed up those claims.
Full statement from the workers group that are walking out today, stating that they want to be offered a full time roll for the amount of work QA testing is. (Via @stephentotilo) pic.twitter.com/drfhJ5YsfhDecember 6, 2021
Last week, Activision began meetings with several contractors to inform staff whether they would be keeping or losing their jobs from January 28 onwards, with roughly 12 staff - almost a third of the team - being told that they would need to find new jobs in the new year, despite not having underperformed in their roles. This reportedly comes after QA staff were told that Activision was working towards a pay restructure that would see wages increase.
The walkout comes just days before the start of Call of Duty: Vanguard's integration with Warzone, a mode that Raven is primarily responsible for the upkeep of. Given the difficulties created by the integration with Black Ops: Cold War and Modern Warfare last year, the QA department is likely to prove very important during the transition, meaning this collective action could create substantial difficulties for the start of Warzone's next era.
The collective action also comes amid a very difficult time for Activision Blizzard in general. The company is facing an ongoing lawsuit relating to claims of sexism and harassment, and there have been repeated calls for CEO Bobby Kotick to step down due to his inability to fix the company's culture during his tenure.
In a statement, Activision said that "we are converting approximately 500 temporary workers to full-time employees in the coming months. Unfortunately, as part of this change, we also have notified 20 temporary works across studios that their contracts would not be extended."
While the first day of action was mostly limited to Raven employees, the following day saw others from across Activision Blizzard join the strike.
Here's when the Call of Duty: Warzone new map is due to drop.