Blizzard dev claims he was fired for writing loot goblin that made fun of corporate greed

A wealthy goblin in a top hat
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Though treasure goblins started as a Diablo thing, they've had a couple of cameos in World of Warcraft, showing up during the Diablo 20th anniversary world event back in 2017 and then as "loot specialists" added in a Dragonflight patch earlier this year. The idea's always the same: they drop treasure if defeated, but only if you catch them before they escape via magic portal. What made loot specialists different was that they had a lore-appropriate reason for their very videogame behavior, being members of the Venture Co. acquisitions department—a goblin trade cartel that's been used to parody corporate malfeasance since World of Warcraft's early days.

When Eric Covington on the World of Warcraft quest team wrote the loot specialists, he gave them lines like "Another record quarter for revenue!" and "No profit sharing!" without thinking much of it. Until he was fired out of the blue, despite having worked at Blizzard for almost nine years.

Covington claims on Twitter that he was fired "because someone looked at an innocuous joke and saw a reflection." It's tempting to look over the dialogue and try to figure out if one specific phrase could have got him in trouble. Maybe "Time to go back to the office!" Or "Looks like another yacht for me!" perhaps? Covington goes on to say, "They made sure to hustle and get me out before the end of the month in full knowledge that benefits would expire the next day."

Making the whole thing particularly strange is the fact that, while Covington claims somebody high up enough to get him fired wasn't a fan, the marketing team definitely was. They continued to use footage of loot specialists saying stereotypically greedy things like "I saw it first!" and "Let's call this a cost-of-living adjustment!" in promotional tweets even after he was shown the door.

Covington says he would have "willingly and understandably helped" to replace whichever lines caused the problem if he'd been asked, but wasn't given the chance. "In my email correspondence after termination," he wrote, "I appealed them to reconsider their actions in light of a whole list of evidence I provided, including the fact that the content had to have been reviewed and approved to make it to the social media account and no issue was found."

Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick says that everything is fine at Blizzard actually, and claims to the contrary were made up by an "aggressive labor movement" trying to "destabilize the company".

Reports that Kotick was last seen leaping through an escape portal with a sack over his shoulder have yet to be confirmed.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.