Riot Games will pay any employee 25% of their annual salary if they quit now. Where applicable, employees who accept the offer will receive three months of subsidized health benefits, and won't forfeit upcoming bonuses.
Riot isn't trying to cut costs by thinning its headcount, according to CEO Nicolo Laurent, who told Business Insider (opens in new tab) that the opposite is happening.
"We're trying to grow the business," he said. "We just want to make sure we have the right team of people who are highly motivated."
That team must buy into Riot's five-year plan, which Laurent explains in a blog post (opens in new tab) with a number of perplexing statements such as "our games will work together to continue listening to players." The gist is that Riot is restructuring, changing its compensation model (and giving employees equity in some way), opening new studios, and working on new games and other media. Riot will also require employees to return to working in an office for three days per week at some point in the future.
We expect to hear more about Riot's new games this year—just the other day we heard that Halo Infinite lead narrative designer Aaron Linde has joined Riot to work on an unannounced project. One of Riot's big projects is a fighting game, and it's also working on an RPG, as well as collaborating on more League of Legends spin-offs. Regarding other media, last year's League of Legends Netflix show, Arcane, was well-received, and another season is in production.
As for the eventual return to offices, Laurent told Business Insider that being in the office is "significantly better" for "creative work that requires a lot of diverse skill sets and collaboration."
Employees who, during the pandemic, moved too far away from Riot offices to commute will apparently be expected to relocate or take the buyout offer. Laurent told Business Insider that supporting those employees while they find new work is part of the purpose of the program, and that some were going to leave with or without a check.
The buyout program for Riot employees who want to leave already existed in a more limited form. It's called Queue Dodge, and allows recent Riot hires who aren't gelling with the job to walk away with 10% of their annual salary up to $25,000. For January, Riot is temporarily increasing the payout and expanding it to all employees, whether or not they were hired recently.
"No one should feel any pressure to stay or leave Riot," wrote Laurent. "Whatever they decide is the right decision for them. If they're excited about what's next and want to stay at Riot, that's great. If they're hesitating and this package makes it easier for them to leave, that's cool too."
Blizzard is another gaming company that has given employees who want to leave an incentive to go for it. In 2018, the company told Kotaku (opens in new tab) that its program exists 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."
In his blog post, Laurent also acknowledged that Riot recently reached a $100 million settlement agreement to conclude the gender discrimination lawsuit filed in 2018.
"We've come a very long way since then—in our workplace, our processes, and our leadership—and we'll continue that work every day," he wrote.
Riot chief diversity officer Angela Roseboro said last year (opens in new tab) that the company "increased representation of women and underrepresented minorities" in 2020, but can "can be more proactive" going forward.
To that end, Riot's nine-member Diversity and Inclusion team will "expand their efforts globally," says Laurent. He also says that the company will invest in more programs like the Underrepresented Founders Fund, prioritizing action over "white-text-on-black-background statements on Twitter."
"We're asking Rioters to commit to a Riot where everyone feels supported," he wrote. "Where ideas get productive feedback, where Rioters ask tough questions in ways that foster healthy dialogue, where we're all learning and growing from diverse perspectives, and where we're unapologetically and relentlessly focused on players."
That all sounds good on paper, although aspects of the plan are vague and I'm not sure I've ever seen a game company apologize for being "focused on players" in the first place. However, that idea—that Riot is all about the players—is the core theme that Laurent comes back to repeatedly throughout the post.
"We prefer to think of ourselves not as a games company but as a gamer’s company," he wrote.