In a capitalistic society—and especially in the U.S.—people expect companies to grossly overpay its executives while underpaying most of its staff. Even so, a recent report by Bloomberg is still shocking: Blizzard employees skip meals to save money while its parent company’s CEO made $40 million in 2019 alone.
Blizzard, the studio behind massively popular videogames such as World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch, makes millions for its parent company Activision each year, which in turn earns billions a year through series such as Call of Duty. They have enough money to go around; it’s just going to its top executives instead.
Although some top performers, such as producers and engineers, can make up to $100,000 per year with 20% pay raises, people at the bottom of Blizzard’s food chain — the videogame testers and customer service representatives — make close to, if not exactly, minimum wage.
This follows massive layoffs at the company in 2019, where hundreds of employees lost their jobs and executives expected those who remained to pick up their past colleagues’ work for little to no additional pay.
In order to make ends meet with these low wages, Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier discovered that employees would only drink coffee or eat oatmeal for lunch, not being able to afford the company’s cafeteria food. Another disclosed that they and their partner gave up on having a kid because Activision Blizzard, a multi-billion dollar company, didn’t pay them enough for it to be financially feasible.
Meanwhile, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick made $40 million last year, while incoming Chief Financial Officer Dennis Durkin made $15 million in stock awards and bonuses, not counting his actual salary.
The videogame industry is infested with a culture of intense crunch, discrimination and abuse, but in many cases, as with Riot Games, employees pull through the often-horrid conditions for fair to even good pay. For most at Blizzard, this doesn’t seem to be the case.