Sources claim Activision Publishing has cut up to 5 percent of its workforce, with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare developer Infinity Ward getting hit the hardest.
Last week, Activision Blizzard reported that 2016 was its best year ever, with $6.61 billion dollars worth of revenue on the books. Digital revenue made up $4.87 billion dollars of that amount, and analysts noted that Activision’s acquisition of Candy Crush developer King likely played a role in the strong uptick in numbers.
But while the earnings report was good news, it apparently wasn’t enough to save the jobs of some employees across multiple Activision studios this week, according to Kotaku. Sources said that up to 5 percent of the employees working under Activision Publishing were laid off. Activision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard, is comprised of the publisher’s corporate headquarters in Santa Monica and a number of development studios across the country, including Infinity Ward, Beenox, and Treyarch.
One source said that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare developer Infinity Ward was one of the hardest hit by the cuts, with around 20 people laid off. Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg didn’t mince words when talking about Infinite Warfare on the earnings call, openly stating that the game “didn’t resonate” with part of the franchise’s audience. The FPS title was widely derided by fans when it was announced last year, with its initial reveal trailer receiving more than 3 million dislikes. Many fans were not happy with the game’s sci-fi and outer space theme, although ironically, Infinite Warfare was still the best-selling game of 2016.
Activision has already pledged to send Call of Duty “back to its roots” in 2017, with some fans assuming this means the franchise will return to World War II or another historical war like Vietnam. A member of the Sledgehammer Games dev team that is handling the title then tweeted on Friday that the 2017 game will be set “on the ground,” leading to speculation that the boost jumps and wall runs introduced to the series back in Advanced Warfare could be removed in favor of more traditional movement options.
Regardless of the direction Sledgehammer goes with the next Call of Duty, there will be an immense amount of pressure on the game as it’s the only major title on the slate at Activision Publishing this year besides Destiny 2, according to the call. Bungie may also be feeling the squeeze, with Activision having to deny a rumor about a clause that would give the publisher stock in the Destiny 2 developer if it failed to hit its 2017 release date.
Layoffs are unfortunately just a fact of life in the video game industry, although it is somewhat odd to hear about job cuts following a record quarter. It’s worth noting that many analysts pointed out that the strength of Activision Blizzard’s revenue was thanks in large part to its acquisition of Candy Crush and Blizzard’s highly successful year with Overwatch and other titles. It’s also clear that Activision Blizzard has very high standards for its biggest franchises, and just because one section of the huge company is doing well does not mean that everything is great across the board. The negative reception to Infinite Warfare on the Internet if not on the sales charts likely guaranteed that at least some heads would roll after the dust settled, so today’s news can’t really be called that surprising once the cuts are looked at in more detail.