Activision Blizzard Lays Off 50 Esports Employees as In-Person Live Events Remain Stalled

Activision Blizzard is pink-slipping about 50 staffers in its esports group, which runs the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League and other tournaments. The company cited the shift away from live in-person events for the layoffs during COVID-19.

As of Dec. 31, 2020, Activision Blizzard had about 9,500 employees, of which 65% were based in North America. The games company confirmed the layoffs but didn’t say what percentage of the esports division

“Players are increasingly choosing to connect with our games digitally and the esports team, much like traditional sports, entertainment and broadcasting industries, has had to adapt its business due to the impact the pandemic has had on live events,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Bloomberg.

On Activision Blizzard’s fourth quarter 2020 earnings call, CEO Bobby Kotick touted upcoming esports events.

Regarding the second season of the Call of Duty League, which kicked off in February, Kotick said, “Fans will get to enjoy even more large-scale competitive play this season as its 12-city-based teams compete in a new tournament style format in the Black Ops Cold War era.” He said “Call of Duty” entered 2021 “with the largest player community it has ever had to start a year.”

In addition, Kotick said the Overwatch team “continues to engage its community with in-game content and to celebrate its players in the Overwatch League where teams are preparing for the start of the 2021 season in April.”

For Q4 2020, Activision Blizzard reported net revenue of $2.41 billion, up 22% year over year, and net income of $508 million, down from $525 million in the year-prior period.

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