Blizzard announces 600 layoffs, game development staff spared

WOW CataclysmVideo game developer Blizzard Entertainment, Inc announced a sizable cut in its global workforce on Wednesday. 600 employees were stripped of their positions; nearly a tenth of Activision’s 2011 reported 7,300 employees.

Blizzard is the development studio best known for its World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo series. In a statement, the company said that 90 percent of the lay offs would come from departments not related to game development. Blizzard stressed that World of Warcraft’s development team would not be touched.

“Over the last several years, we’ve grown our organization tremendously and made large investments in our infrastructure in order to better serve our global community. However as Blizzard and the industry have evolved we’ve also had to make some difficult decisions in order to address the changing needs of our company,”said Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime. The CEO also said that laid off employees would be entitled to a severance package and benefits

Though there weren’t any specifics on which jobs were affected, The Verge reports that its sources say customer service took the biggest hit thanks to increased automation. The Blizzard wow-funeralstatement points out that the company “remains committed to mainlining its high standards of quality for customer service delivery.” In a December 2007 piece on an Activision deal with Vivendi games, The Telegraph quotes Blizzard as having more than 2,000 people doing customer relations globally. Interestingly, while 600 employees have been let go, the development studio is actively recruiting qualified developers.

Morhaime took the Battle.net forums to elaborate on the layoffs saying: “In order to keep making epic game content while serving players effectively, we have to be smart about how we manage our resources. This means we sometimes have to make difficult decisions about how to best maintain the health of the company. We’re in the process of making some of those hard decisions now.”

Morhaime stressed that, while overstaffed departments needed to be scaled down in order to further the company’s growth, development teams were largely unscathed and Blizzard remained committed to shipping multiple games in 2012. The company will soon be beta testing for World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard DOTA and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and has other “unannounced projects” up its sleeves. Morhaime also commented on the long-awaited Diablo III, saying that there would release date news revealed in the coming weeks for the game.

With phrases such as “changing needs” and “health of the company,” the decline of World of Warcraft could possibly be the reason for the cuts. The seven years old MMORPG’s subscriber-base dropped 12 million players in 2010 to 10.3 million subscribers in November 2011. Free-to-play games such as League of Legends, as well as EA’s popular Star Wars: The Old Republic have been to blame by analysts for Blizzard’s ailing franchise. While Blizzard is cutting back, the company is stressing that it isn’t dying and has much planned for the future. As far as the “unannounced projects” Morhaime mentions, Develop’s sources have said that Blizzard will expanding in to the free-to-play realm.

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