It was only a few days ago that 34 quality assurance testers at Raven, one of the studios working exclusively on the Call Of Duty series, formed the first ever union among Activision Blizzard employees. Today, management has responded to their success with some changes, breaking up the members of the union.
As Polygon’s Nicole Carpenter reports, earlier today Raven studio head Brian Raffel emailed all staff about an ‘organizational change’ that takes the now-organized QA team—who have only just returned to work having been on strike for seven weeks—and splits them up, spreading them across the rest of the workplace.
Shortly, we will have a meeting where I will explain the latest organizational change that is underway at the studio to enhance the work we do. I hope you can make it, but just in case, please see below.
In November, we began the process to convert our temporary employees to FTE status. Now, I’m excited to share that our QA colleagues will embed directly within various teams across the studio, including Animation, Art, Design, Audio, Production and Engineering.
As we look ahead at the ongoing expansion of Call of Duty: Warzone, it’s more important than ever that we foster tighter integration and coordination across the studio - embedding will allow for this. Firstly, our move to embed our QA teams has been carefully considered and is a next logical step in the planned process that began several months ago. Secondly, we’re confident that the “embedded model,” which is a best practice used at other prominent development studios across Activision, will continue to better position our team to deliver best in class coordination in a fastmoving, live-services operation.
I look forward to the studio operating more creatively, effectively, and efficiently than ever before. I’m also excited that this change will create increased opportunities for our QA team members to further develop their skills and grow their careers at the studio.
Your manager will be setting up team and individual meetings as needed to answer any questions you have. Additionally, please don’t hesitate to reach out to John if you have any questions as well.
The concept of “embedded QA,” where testers are integrated within the rest of a studio’s workforce (as Raven is doing here), is not a new one, and is increasingly common across major video game studios; BioWare, for example, has been doing it for years.
The timing here is certainly interesting, though. Like how these long-planned changes, months in the making, are kicking in for QA staff almost at the exact moment they’ve returned to work from their strike, and will immediately break up the members of the union and scatter them across the studio.
I’m sure that’s just an honest organizational change, and has nothing to do with Raven’s new union, something Activision executives fear more than death itself.
Update: 1/25/21, 3:01 p.m. ET: The CWA blasted Activision’s newly announced plan to restructure Raven QA today, calling it “nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organize.”