Popular Video Game Maker Lays Off 20 Pct. of Minn. Workers

Posted at: 10/31/2012 10:24 PM
Updated at: 11/01/2012 7:45 AM
By: Mark Albert

The publisher of some of the most popular video games on the market announced it will lay off 20 percent of its Minnesota workforce, ending the employment of 31 employees at its Eden Prairie and Bloomington offices just three days after Christmas.

The company, California-based Activision Publishing, Inc, notified the state this week by sending it a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN) notification letter listing the positions to be eliminated due to "restructuring." After the layoffs, the company will still employ 118 people in Minnesota, according to the data provided to the state.

WARN Act letters are generally required by law if a company plans a "mass layoff" defined as 50 or more workers let go at the same time. Since its planned layoffs did not meet that threshold, Activision "went above and beyond" the law, explained Anthony Alongi, director of the Dislocated Worker Program at the Minnesota Dept. Of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

"We're very pleased that they did it," Alongi said in an interview Wednesday.

Activision, which has had a presence in Minnesota since 1998, said in its letter that the affected employees would be laid off "permanently" as of Dec. 28, 2012. The letter was also sent to the mayors of Eden Prairie and Bloomington.

"We have no plans to shut down the Minneapolis division," said Maryanne Lataif during a phone interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. "This is a restructuring to better align our costs with our future slate of games for 2013."

Lataif explained that the company expected the Minneapolis division would release fewer games based on third-party licenses next year than it did in 2012.

The company is the creator and publisher of the blockbuster gaming franchise "Call of Duty," the latest installment of which was released to the media Wednesday.

Employees in Minnesota don't develop the games, Lataif said, working instead on the company's publishing side, handling marketing, sales, and finance for games such as Cabela's Hunting Expeditions.

Through September of this year, the most recent data available, the number of workers in Minnesota let go in mass layoffs is down 20 percent from 2011; from 5,531 as of Sept. 30, 2011 to 4,442 as of Sept. 30, 2012.

DEED's Anthony Alongi called it "good news" for a state still recovering from the Great Recession. Minnesota's unemployment rate in September, at 5.8 percent, was two full points lower than the national rate.

"We're seeing fewer layoff notices. We're also seeing fewer people come into the workforce centers from small layoffs... It's a positive trend," Alongi said.

The state's dislocated worker hotline is 1-888-GET-JOBS.