WoW Classic lead fired for protesting company policy skewers leadership: "The ABK team should be ashamed"

WOTLK
(Image credit: Blizzard)

One of the lead developers on World of Warcraft Classic has been fired after protesting Blizzard's controversial employee evaluation system, attributing the practice to the company's top-level leadership. 

On January 23, Bloomberg (opens in new tab) reported that WoW Classic lead Brian Birmingham had been fired from Blizzard. The reason for Birmingham's firing, according to the report, was refusing to partake in Blizzard's stack-ranking policy, which sees managers forced to give low performance ratings to a certain number of staff to meet a quota. Birmingham had reportedly expressed plans to resign, but was fired after meeting with HR. 

Now, on January 24, Birmingham has confirmed the news via his personal Twitter account, in a tweet thread beginning with the post below. Birmingham asserts that the stack-ranking policy actually comes from ABK, Activision Blizzard's parent company, and although developers at Blizzard pushed back hard against the policy in 2021, the company went ahead with it anyway.

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"ABK is a problematic parent company," Birmingham said of Blizzard's mother ship. "They put us under pressure to deliver both expansions early. It is deeply unjust to follow that by depriving employees who worked on them their fair share of profit. The ABK team should be ashamed of themselves."

Birmingham's firing has been met with support from other ex-Blizzard developers, including Valentine Powell, seen just below. Powell used his personal Twitter account to speak out against ABK's stack-ranking policy, stating that it's "fundamentally damaging to teambuilding."

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Since Birmingham's tweet, dozens of other developers around the games industry have come out in support of the ousted veteran. Respawn veteran Patrick Wren (opens in new tab), Thirsty Suitors director Chandana Ekanayake (opens in new tab), and Baldur's Gate 3 PR director Molly Carroll are among those speaking up in support of Birmingham, and against the stack-ranking policy. 

Although Birmingham expressed a desire to return to Blizzard and protest ABK's stack-ranking policy from within the studio, it's unclear whether this could eventually happen. He says he "will still play blizzard games" and respects "the developers I worked with at Blizzard." 

Head over to our new games 2023 guide for a look at all the titles expected to launch this year. 

Hirun Cryer

Hirun Cryer is a freelance reporter and writer with Gamesradar+ based out of U.K. After earning a degree in American History specializing in journalism, cinema, literature, and history, he stepped into the games writing world, with a focus on shooters, indie games, and RPGs, and has since been the recipient of the MCV 30 Under 30 award for 2021. In his spare time he freelances with other outlets around the industry, practices Japanese, and enjoys contemporary manga and anime.