Report: Activision Blizzard to lay off 50 staff due to COVID-19 pandemic

Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 16 to include a comment from an Activision Blizzard spokesperson.

Activision Blizzard will lay off 50 staff members as part of an effort to downsize its live event departments for both the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League, according to a report. The layoffs come a month after Blizzard reported record revenues during a recent shareholders presentation.

“My time at Blizzard has officially come to an end,” said former Blizzard producer Alex Barhorst, who helped run Hearthstone events and BlizzCon, in a tweet. “Not going to get too sappy again, but a sincere thanks to everyone in my Blizzard family, Hearthstone and beyond.”

Tony Petitti, president of sports and entertainment at Activision Blizzard, has said that his division is preparing for a future with less in-person events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all of the Overwatch League and Call of Duty league events, which are run by one division hit by some of the Activision Blizzard lay off, were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“We learned a lot last year in terms of how the leagues can be structured for online play, and we’ll look to carry the best practices from that,” he said during an interview with The Esports Observer. He added that the leagues wouldn’t be completely online and that Activision Blizzard would adjust its plans once again when it’s safe to gather in-person again.

This is a big shift from the original plan for both leagues. Overwatch League players were supposed to relocate to each team’s respective cities starting with the 2020 season and host individual home events. The Call of Duty League was following closely behind Overwatch. The pandemic cancelled those plans and has forced Activision Blizzard to reevaluate their priorities.

Activision Blizzard saw record profits again in 2020, despite the pandemic’s impact on their business. The company posted full-year net revenues up 25% to $8.09 billion as compared to 2019. Net profits rose 46% to $2.2 billion with Call of Duty and Candy Crush leading those increases. The company expects the growth to continue into 2022 with more games in development.

Daily Esports reached out to Activision Blizzard for a comment about the layoffs but did not receive a reply in time for publication. This story will be updated as the situation develops.

Update: A spokesperson for the company confirmed the contents of The Esports Observer story but declined to comment further.

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