Dec 5, 2022 - Technology

Hundreds of Microsoft game studios workers will vote on forming a union

Video game screenshot of a person in a spacesuit looking out at a mountain vista

Starfield. Screenshot: Zenimax/Bethesda Game Studios

Nearly 300 quality assurance workers at video game studios owned by Microsoft have taken steps towards forming a union, according to a representative from the Communication Workers of America, which represents them.

Why it matters: If it succeeds, it’ll be the biggest effort to unionize yet seen in the game industry.

Driving the news: The testers, who work on development teams in the ZeniMax Studios group consisting of Bethesda, Id Software and others, can signal their preference about whether to form a union through signed union cards or an electronic portal. The news was first reported by the New York Times.

  • Microsoft will voluntarily recognize the union if the majority of the workers say they want it, a rep for CWA said in a press release. That recognition would avoid the contentious National Labor Relations Board review process that has slowed unionization efforts among testers at Activision Blizzard.
  • Two Activision Blizzard QA teams formed unions this year via the NLRB-administered process, including one studio last week.
  • Microsoft purchased the ZeniMax Studios group in 2020 for $7.5 billon.

The big picture: Microsoft pledged earlier this year to remain neutral on union matters.

  • That promise was an olive branch to workers skeptical of Microsoft's actions, should the company succeed in its $69 billion bid to buy Activision Blizzard.
  • Following that pledge, the CWA said it would support Microsoft's bid.
  • Union efforts have made inroads at big tech largely through gaming, retail workers and warehouse workers.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to note that the New York Times was first to report the news about organizing at Zenimax.

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