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Blizzard paying staff to leave in order to cut costs, according to reports

In a bid to cut costs, Blizzard has expanded a scheme that offers employees money to leave the company, according to a Kotaku report. Sources also state that the company has given more power to its finance department to cut spending, and has reduced the budgets of any teams not directly making games.

The staff buyout scheme, called Career Crossroads, offers severance packages to staff who voluntarily leave the company. It was initially open to customer service representatives with more than five years at Blizzard, but this year it has been expanded to the quality assurance and IT teams, a source familiar with the program told Kotaku. Blizzard has also reduced the number of years an employee must work in order to be eligible for the scheme.

Separately, sources at Blizzard's office in Cork, Ireland have told Eurogamer that more than 100 staff in the firm's customer support team have accepted buyouts as part of the scheme. The Career Crossroads program has been offered to staff at the Cork office at least five times over the past few months, with the money on offer increasing over time.

One former employee said: "It was too good to pass up. This is voluntary, do not get me wrong. But when you see a pile a cash in front of you, over and over again, you start to lose hope and cannot see a great situation ahead." 

In a statement, Blizzard told Eurogamer that it had not encouraged anybody to take advantage of the program. "The employees who are choosing to leave the company later this month are taking advantage of a voluntary and longstanding program we offer in various locations around the world," it said. "No one is required or encouraged to participate in this program, but for those who do, we work hard to make it generous."

The developer confirmed to Kotaku that it had recently expanded the Career Crossroads program. "We’ve been offering it for many years—initially to some of our customer service teams, and we expanded it for a short period of time to a few other departments recently, given that it has proven to be a good way to help people who have been thinking about a career change or going back to school to get a head start on that path if that’s what they want to do," it said.

"While fewer than 10 people in the departments we recently expanded the program to have taken advantage of it, the general idea is that in addition to providing them with that opportunity, it also helps us give more advancement opportunities to other employees on the team when possible."

However, the Kotaku report provides evidence that the growth of the program is part of an overall cost-cutting strategy. One former employee told the outlet: “Over the course of the last year, Blizzard has been trying very actively to find creative ways to cut costs that won’t draw negative press attention."

Three former Blizzard employees said there's a growing influence from the finance department, which had created what one called a "real struggle now between developers and the business people". Another said: “Finance in general in Blizzard has been one of these invisible functions that’s there, but doesn’t have a say, Now they’re suddenly in meetings.”

The full Kotaku report is worth a read. It also touches on the growing influence of Activision and cost cutting in non-gaming departments.