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News video games 24 January 2023, 12:25

author: Adrian Werner

Blizzard Veteran Quits in Protest Against Employee Ranking

One of Blizzard's studio veterans has left the company in protest against the introduction of an employee ranking system, which he believes is unfair and spoils the team culture.

Blizzard Entertainment lost Brian Birmingham, who had been with the team since 2006 and most recently served as one of the two lead developers overseeing the work on World of Warcraft Classic. The veteran developer left in protest against the introduction of an employee ranking system.

  1. The case was first reported by Bloomberg.
  2. The system introduced at Blizzard is the so-called stack ranking. As part of it, employees are divided into several groups depending on their performance. In the case of the studio, the 5% of the worst-rated developers had their profit bonuses reduced. It was also more difficult for them to be promoted.
  3. At first glance, such a system may seem sensible, but in reality it is severely unfair. After all, managers have to identify 5% of employees as poor performers, even if these individuals completed all tasks efficiently. Thus, the studio's managers were able to create an excellent team in which every developer gives his or her best, and still later some of them faced a bonus cut.
  4. When leaving Blizzard, Brian Birmingham sent an email to employees in which he explained the reasons for his decision. In it, he stated that studio managers were against the introduction of this ranking system, but were forced to do so by higher-ups at Activision.
  5. In the email, Birmingham explains that this system has a disastrous effect on the studio. It encourages unhealthy competition between employees, destroys trust within the team and limits creativity. It can also reward sabotaging colleagues.

The email was never supposed to get out of the company, but Bloomberg editors received it from an anonymous source, so Brian Birmingham commented on the whole situation on Twitter. He explained that the decision to introduce a ranking system was not made by Blizzard boss Mike Ybarra - it was supposed to come from a higher position in the publisher's hierarchy.

Managers at the studio tried to stop the introduction of this system, and for a long time it seemed that they would succeed. Eventually, however, these solutions were forced upon them. Birmingham commented on the actions of ABK (Activision Blizzard King, the company that controls all the studios that make up the publisher) as follows:

"I hope that Blizzard's positive culture is able to overcome ABK's poison, but so far it has not succeeded.


Activision Blizzard King is a problematic parent company. It puts pressure on us to release the last two expansions for World of Warcraft earlier. It is deeply unfair to deprive the employees who worked on them of their due share of profits. The ABK team should be ashamed of themselves."

Adrian Werner

Adrian Werner

A true veteran of the Gamepressure newsroom, writing continuously since 2009 and still not having enough. He caught the gaming bug thanks to playing on his friend's ZX Spectrum. Then he switched to his own Commodore 64, and after a short adventure with 16-bit consoles, he forever entrusted his heart to PC games. A fan of niche productions, especially adventure games, RPGs and games of the immersive sim genre, as well as a mod enthusiast. Apart from games, he devourers stories in every form - books, series, movies, and comics.