Seattle-area layoffs: Microsoft, REI start 2024 with workforce reductions
Jan 26, 2024, 5:10 AM | Updated: 9:21 am
(Photo: Smith Collection/Getty Images)
Multiple Washington-based companies have announced layoffs in January, impacting thousands of workers. This week’s announcements come after a slew of major companies made similar cuts earlier this month, including Riot Games, Google, Discord and Twitch.
Microsoft parts with video game employees
Microsoft announced Thursday it will lay off 1,900 employees working for Activision Blizzard and Xbox — two video game workforces — this week. ZeniMax employees will also be impacted by the cuts, the company said.
The Microsoft gaming division has approximately 22,000 employees in total, meaning these January layoffs are equivalent to eliminating 8% of the staff.
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Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion — in an all-cash transaction valued at $95.00 per share — in 2022, making Microsoft the third-largest gaming company by revenue at the time of the purchase. Activision Blizzard and King Studios previously produced titles including “World of Warcraft,” “Diablo,” “Overwatch,” “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush.” Blizzard president Mike Ybarra also decided to leave after more than 20 years with the company. Blizzard co-founder and chief design officer Allen Adham also left his position.
Blizzard Entertainment’s untitled survival game was also shelved in wake of the layoffs. The game would have been Blizzard’s first new original property since the launch of “Overwatch” in 2016, and the first original property since the merger.
Meanwhile, Xbox has been a project within Microsoft since 2001. Xbox is a video gaming brand that consists of home video game consoles, videogames and a streaming service called Xbox Cloud Gaming.
“The people who are directly impacted by these reductions have all played an important part in the success of Activision Blizzard, ZeniMax and the Xbox teams, and they should be proud of everything they’ve accomplished here,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer wrote in a company memo obtained by The Verge. “We are grateful for all of the creativity, passion and dedication they have brought to our games, our players and our colleagues.”
Microsoft previously announced layoffs this time last year, with the cuts affecting 10,000 employees.
REI trims its workforce
REI will be letting go of 357 employees this month, according to REI CEO Eric Artz, who shared a message with workers in a memo that “the coming days are going to be tough,” according to KIRO 7 and The Seattle Times.
“We let go of a lot of good people,” Artz told employees. “We’re going to do everything we can to support them, but that will not make this moment any easier.”
Two-hundred of the layoffs are at the company’s headquarters, while 121 of the jobs lost were at distribution centers, 30 jobs organizing trips and classes and six in various sales and customer service departments.
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Artz stated that the company is reducing the size of its senior leadership team by 22% in 2024. No non-headquarters store-specific roles will be impacted by these layoffs, which came after financial declines over the last four quarters.
“While we were able to outperform this trend for much of the last year, it caught up to us in Q4 and we now expect conditions to remain very challenging throughout 2024,” Artz added.
Similar to Microsoft, REI laid off more than 160 people in February of last year due to economic conditions.