Veteran Activision Blizzard Dev Resigns Due To Company’s Stack-Ranking Quota System

A recent report by Bloomberg goes over the departure of co-lead developer of World of Warcraft Classic Brian Birmingham from Activision Blizzard due to the controversial stack-ranking quota system implemented in the company. 

Bloomberg reported that according to this system, team managers at ABK are required to give 5% of the employees the lover ‘developing’ rating to cut these employees from promotions, added bonuses, and new opportunities. Bloomberg report reads:

In 2021, Blizzard, a unit of Activision Blizzard Inc., implemented a process called stack ranking, in which employees are ranked on a bell curve and managers must give low ratings to a certain percentage of staff, according to people familiar with the change who asked not to be named discussing a private matter. 

Managers were expected to give a poor “developing” status to roughly 5% of employees on their teams, which would lower their profit-sharing bonus money and could hamper them from receiving raises or promotions.”

The report further adds the email by Brian Birmingham to the staff before he left; as per Bloomberg, it reads as:

When team leads asked why we had to do this, World of Warcraft directors explained that while they did not agree, the reasons given by executive leadership were that it was important to squeeze the bottom-most performers as a way to make sure everybody continues to grow. 

This sort of policy encourages competition between employees, sabotage of one another’s work, a desire for people to find low-performing teams that they can be the best-performing worker on, and ultimately erodes trust and destroys creativity.

If this policy can be reversed, perhaps my Blizzard can still be saved, and if so I would love to continue working there. If this policy cannot be reversed, then the Blizzard Entertainment I want to work for doesn’t exist anymore, and I’ll have to find somewhere else to work.”

Later, Brian Birmingham confirmed this news (stating the article by Bloomberg as accurate) on Twitter and publicly expressed his side of the story, showing his frustration against the stack-ranking system at Activision Blizzard. In a Twitter thread, he said:

I wasn’t intending to make this public, but apparently it’s in the news already, so I’d at least like to set the record straight.  I am no longer an employee of Blizzard Entertainment, though I would return if allowed to, so that I could fight the stack-ranking policy from inside.

I’m told the forced stack-ranking policy is a directive that came from the ABK level, ABOVE Mike Ybarra.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s true.  Everybody at Blizzard I’ve spoken to about this, including my direct supervisors, expressed disappointment about this policy.”

Activision Blizzard has been making headlines for quite a time now. Unfortunately, for the wrong reasons, with several controversies in the past, this is another piece of news that paints a gloomy picture of Activision Blizzard executives. What are your thoughts about this? Let us know in the comment section below.


Abdullah Amin

Abdullah is passionate about staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the gaming industry. With a strong background in writing and research, he is able to provide in-depth analysis and informative articles for a wide range of gaming audiences.
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