Only the day before yesterday, the presentation of the new part of Call of Duty ended, but the next day it became known that everything was not all right with the production of the game. Bloomberg has prepared material about unfair working conditions and unfair treatment of contractors in Activision for many years. The same thing happened with other publishers.

The article for Bloomberg was published by journalist Jason Schreier, who has repeatedly covered problematic situations in the internal processes of studios. This time he went through the difficulties faced by third-party contractors.

Activision and Call of Duty

There are a couple of months left before the release of the next part of Call of Duty, and record sales are predicted for the game. But the success of the game will not affect the salaries of the contractors who worked on it, according to a Bloomberg journalist.

According to Schreier, Activision regularly infringes on the rights of freelance employees and treats them with prejudice.

A revealing story happened on Christmas Day, when the company sent employees traditional invitations to the annual holiday. However, soon some of the guests were told that they had received the letter by mistake and could not come to the party. The reason: these people were not part of the Activision staff, but were contractors.

Such behavior is not uncommon for a company, Schreier notes. While managers receive millions of bonuses from successful title releases, full-time employees receive nice bonuses, the rest do not even see their names in the credits for the game. Contractors’ badges are a different color, vacations are shorter, and working conditions are more complicated.

Moreover, contractors from Treyarch – the studio that worked on Call of Duty, among others – claim that they are paid less than $20 per hour. They have to stay in the office at night and on weekends to make ends meet. The contract contracts state that such employees have no rights to, bonuses and bonuses that full-time employees receive.

However, Activision claims to investigate all complaints of unfair treatment. The publisher also clarifies that only 10% of the company’s 10,000 employees are contractors.

Microsoft and Halo

It’s been twenty years since Microsoft got out of a high-profile scandal with contractors. Then the outsourcers who worked for the company filed a class action lawsuit for not being granted benefits. Microsoft took this experience into account and tried to reduce its dependence on contractors, but got new problems.

In 2014, the corporation introduced a rule: freelance employees can only work at Microsoft for 18 months. As the company explained, this was to “protect Microsoft’s confidential information and intellectual property.”

That’s just 18 months is a short time for game development, and many of the company’s projects have suffered because of an inconvenient rule. These included Halo Infinite, which took more than four years to create. When part of the Halo team ended the contract, she simply left Microsoft, leaving the game unfinished. It was possible to hire these contractors back only after six months.

The Dark side of games

According to Schreier, there are tens of thousands of people living in the world who want to get into the gaming industry. They are ready for anything and agree to tolerate restrictions. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 220 thousand people work in the field of games in the USA alone. Of these, 65 thousand are full-time employees supported by thousands of freelancers. But between them there are also contractors who work full-time, but receive much less for it.

It is worth noting that in an interview for Bloomberg, none of the contractors gave their name for fear of employers’ revenge. Each of these people is an important part of the team, whose contracts are regularly renewed, but they are not called to the staff, despite their contribution to the games.

According to activist Emma Kinema, the vast majority of contractors have no opportunity for career growth.

“Temporary employees are told that they will still be able to prove themselves, and then move to the staff,” says Kinema. “In most cases, contractors always remain in their positions with terrible conditions, lack of bonuses, low salaries and no career growth.”

Unfortunately, the industry is designed in such a way that it is very difficult to get out of the status of a contractor. For example, in Japan, studios do not specifically name freelance employees so that other companies do not poach them.

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