Skip to main content

Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Blizzard's Diablo testers win right to unionise

Activision believes "direct dialogue between company and employees" still "most productive route".

Blizzard's Albany-based band of Diablo testers have won the right to form a union.

Their petition to the US National Labor Relations Board has now been accepted, setting the stage for a vote by employees to formalise the process. Ballots will be sent out as soon as next week, Kotaku reported, with a result due on 18th November.

Activision Blizzard had previously argued against this process going ahead, and claimed it should be a decision made by a larger group of employees at the Albany studio rather than its testing team. Ultimately, the NLRB disagreed.

Eurogamer Newscast: Will Microsoft's $68bn Activision Blizzard buyout be blocked?Watch on YouTube

Overnight, Activision's top brass responded to the news via a statement posted to the company's internal Slack - which was then shared publicly on Twitter via former employee and ABetterABK workers group founder Jessica Gonzalez.

The statement from Activision Blizzard exec Lulu Cheng Meservey notes that the company "fully respects the NLRB process and fully supports the employees' right to choose how they want to be represented" - but goes on to reiterate that this process is not the preferred outcome for the company.

"We disagree that a handful of employees should get to decide for everyone else on the future of the entire Albany-based Diablo team," Meservey continued. "We think a direct dialogue between company and employees is the most productive route.

"Examples: through direct dialogue we've already converted contingent QA staff to full time, increased pay, increased benefits, opened up access to the bonus program, and offered more opportunities for professional advancement (which would also result in more pay).

"We feel collective bargaining is comparatively slow - once agreement is in place [it] takes over a year on average according to a Bloomberg analysis. During the long contract negotiations, labour law forbids companies from giving any pay/bonus/benefit increases without a special arrangement with the union, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that non-union employees generally get larger pay raises than union-represented groups. That's consistent with what we saw with [Call of Duty studio] Raven, where there have only been three bargaining sessions since the union was certified there almost six months ago, due partly to the union cancelling pre-planned bargaining sessions for a month."

Ultimately, Activision Blizzard must now accept the NLRB's decision - a point Meservey eventually accepts.

"Having a streamlined process is a reason why the company prefers direct discussions - but ultimately it's up to employees and everyone should get to vote their own preference in a fair election."

QA testers at Blizzard Albany - formerly the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 studio Vicarious Visions - first announced their intent to unionise back in July. It follows an earlier successful attempt by testers at Raven

Founded in 1991 as Vicarious Visions and bought by Activision Blizzard in 2005, the studio has a long history with some of Activision's most successful franchises past and present: Tony Hawk, Guitar Hero, Skylanders, Destiny and Crash Bandicoot. In 2021, the studio was flipped from Activision to Blizzard, with staff put to work on Diablo 2: Resurrected.