God bless the French, they do love a birra industrial action. Local patisserie burns your croissant? Strike. Wife takes a second lover? Strike. Massive, global developer threatens the livelihood of you and your colleges? Strike. But perhaps, given the global rise in unemployment as we are all forced to sit at home and write articles derailing French stereotypes, we can at least empathise (although a burnt croissant is nothing to be taken lightly). This is exactly what Blizzard have done. Announcing their intention to close their office in Versailles, Blizzard would put almost 300 employees out of a job.
This comes following a letter written to all employees of the French Blizzard office. It comes from no less than three workers Unions. It advised yesterday that all employees of the Versailles office should down tools today. In their own words,
“Elected Unions CGT, SPECIS-UNSA and CFE-CGC are calling Versailles’s BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT SAS employees to join mobilization and to go on strike on October 14th 2020 to defend our jobs and save our company”.
Bad Timing…for Blizzard
The timing really couldn’t be worse, for two reasons. Firstly, this comes on the day a much anticipated patch was due to release for World of Warcraft. But following the move from the French Unions many streams seem to have collectively agreed not to cross the virtual picket. Popular WoW streamers Taliesin & Evitel shared their disappointment in the actions proposed by Blizzard, but are standing in solidarity with the French workers who stand to lose their jobs, and will hold back their planned stream today.
Taliesin & Evitel stand in solidarity with the strikers against Blizzard
But it’s the second reason that hits hardest. Since the pandemic entered our collective consciousness earlier this year, the impact on people’s lives, and specifically their livelihoods cannot be underestimated. There have been an estimated 30m jobs lost in the US alone. The UK has record high unemployment at 4.6%, and this is expected to more than double to 9% in the coming months. France has seen an increase of over 10m people entering the great unwashed, although there is significant support in place for the displaced, as you might expect from a country with world beating employment rights. The prospect of Blizzard contributing to this statistic is frankly unconscionable. The letter explains,
“In these times of Covid Crisis, it is inconceivable to send 285 people on an unemployment market in turmoil. In less than 2 years, the management cut 133 jobs in 2019 with the INGIGO plan which was cancelled in court…and then tried in March 2020 to cut even more jobs with project GEMINI…”
Good Times for the Gaming Sector
Ironically, the games industry is one area that has been least impacted by the virus, as many turn to their platforms of choice to ward off the numbing boredom of prolonged lockdown. The NDP group reported that Video Games sales in North America increased 34% year on year in March 2020, with net spending increased 9% in the first quarter, reaching an eye watering $10.9b.
Nintendo have been consistently reported as economic winners throughout the pandemic, but other companies have done well too. Nvidia, EA have seen significant share price increases too. And surprise surprise! Activision Blizzard Inc can happily count themselves invited to the party, having seen its own share price increase but 4.9%, saying that it had reached “new heights” in sales that created its best first-quarter profit in history.
What the actual F**k
So, without apology, I’d like to understand what exactly the actual fuck, Blizzard? How can you possibly justify the staffing cut in the light of your own self-congratulatory, pompus gloating? Blizzard reported a whopping $505m in first quarter net income, up a staggering $58m from 2019. What possible justification can you have for throwing the lives of 300 people to the wind in these unprecedented times? In my opinion, this is exactly the insidious, abhorrent behaviour that has become, sadly indicative of an industry suffering from its own success. Marred with share-holder expectation and the increasing cost of champagne, it seems $58m just isn’t enough.
We can take solace in the fact that France tends not to look too kindly on this level of indiscriminate bullshittery. It’s likely that the action proposed by Blizzard never comes to pass. And as this thieving mega-corp is bent over the French courts, others may look on and have pause for thought before similar, inevitable action is proposed in this once beloved industry. Either way, we’re in for a show. Best stock up on burnt croissants.
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