Is everything fine at Activision Blizzard? If you spoke to an executive right now, they’d probably reassure you that the gaming business is just fine and nothing will be impacted by the recent layoffs. That’s essentially what was said in a press release by CEO Bobby Kotick, who said that the restructuring would “help us reach our full potential.”
The company’s most recent SEC filing paints quite a different picture of the impact of recent events. Under “Risk Factors,” there’s a subheading that reads:
“We may not realize the expected financial and operational benefits of our recently announced restructuring plan, and its implementation may negatively impact our business.”
The longer description of why the restructuring may not be beneficial to the company includes the following statements:
“Further, there can be no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective than prior to implementation of the plan, or that additional restructuring plans will not be required or implemented in the future. The implementation of this restructuring plan may also be costly and disruptive to our business or have other negative consequences, such as attrition beyond our planned reduction in workforce or negative impacts on employee morale and productivity, or on our ability to attract and retain highly skilled employees. Any of these consequences could negatively impact our business.”
Your first reaction might be, “Well, why did you cut all those jobs if it’s not guaranteed to make your company better?” But the “Risk Factors” section of an SEC filing is always going to be rife with uncertainties and worst-case scenarios. It’s full of dire warnings about everything that could possibly go wrong, ranging from concerns about lawsuits, tax changes, seasonality of sales, and even earthquakes in California. There’s even a stated worry regarding “objectionable third-party content” — yes, making dicks in video games is an official concern for developers and publishers.
There’s also a line about “existing laws or new laws regarding the marketing of in-app purchases,” which could be interpreted as concern about loot box regulation. Another subhead says, “If we do not consistently deliver popular, high-quality content in a timely manner, or if consumers prefer competing products, our business may be negatively impacted.” You won’t hear talk like that at BlizzCon: “We hope you like our next World of Warcraft expansion, but it might be late or not be very good and it might make you quit our game!”
So, yeah, there’s not too much outrage to be had over a document that says layoffs might not be the cure-all for whatever plagues Activision Blizzard. Everything under the sun, and even some things under the earth, are covered in what’s meant to be a comprehensive statement of risk.