The problem, as it usually is, lies in the money itself. Give perfectly decent, kind people shares in a big pot of gold and watch their priorities shift. Would you feel better about the Activision debacle if 800 people had to go, but the remaining 9,000 Activision employees got an equal share of the pie? What if you were one of those 9,000? How about if Activision had only fired 400 people and the extra cash got your project green-lit?
One studio I worked for binned four out of sixteen developers, then posted their biggest ever profit, nearly a million pounds. Choosing money over employees isn’t a problem unique to Activision, or to big business: it’s a conflict of interest in companies of every size.
I’ve heard a lot of studios describe themselves as ‘families’ and many studios, obviously, treat their people well (see ‘pragmatic reasons why you’d want to do that as a business’, above). But families fundamentally care about the people they are. Imagine your mum throwing her hands up in front of a spreadsheet and saying, ‘I’m afraid we have to let you go, dear. It’s just the best thing for the family.’
We should stop expecting companies to look after us like friends and family would, because they consistently prove that they won’t. Unions are a great start - they should force workers into companies’ priorities lists, though they’ll never get them to #1. But I’d urge everyone who works for someone to remember that companies ask you to an agenda that isn’t yours. Don’t let them fool you into loving them for it.