Activision Blizzard has finished conducting a review of its various culture issues. This was done in response to the various harassment and abuse allegations several employees claimed against the publisher. However, Activision has found that there was “no widespread harassment,” contrary to the allegations.
The findings were published in a document posted on Activision’s investor website. It contains a lot of PR jargon but the general gist is that Activision believes that the claims made against it were overstated. The publisher acknowledges that improvements can be made but does not believe that any of its leadership was aware of the problems.
The document reads “the Board and its external advisors have determined that there is no evidence to suggest that senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment”. Additionally, American lawyer Gilbert Casellas believes that there was no widespread harassment or systemic issues at Activision. It is worth noting that Casellas was hired by Activision to conduct the investigation.
Activision goes on to detail the steps it has taken to improve its company culture. This includes efforts to fix pay disparity, banning alcohol in the workplace, and waiving arbitration for individual claims of sexual harassment.
Needless to say, you should be extremely skeptical of any claims made in this report. Naturally, Activision would want to say that Activision has no harassment issues. Especially in a report that will be shown to investors, the people responsible for pumping money into the company.
Also, the fact that the investigation was conducted by a team hired by Activision largely invalidates it. Large compensation was likely provided in order to overlook certain aspects and present the company in a good light. If Activision wants these claims to be taken seriously by anyone an independent investigation has to follow.
The biggest gaming news of 2022 so far has undoubtedly been Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Costing $68.7 billion, it was the most expensive acquisition in video game history. However, it turns out not everyone is happy with the move. Kyle Watson, a shareholder in Activision has sued the publisher following concerns regarding the takeover.
Watson is on record as claiming that the sale is “unfair for a number of reasons.” The main reason highlighted is that Watson believes the move is an attempt by senior management to benefit themselves and no one else. By senior management, he is referring to the higher-ups at Activision Blizzard including controversial CEO Bobby Kotick.
The Activision shareholder may have a case given the recent news regarding Kotick’s future. When Microsoft confirms the purchase, it is expected that Kotick will leave the company and earn $15 million in the process. In the eyes of many, this is questionable given his involvement with the infamous sexual harassment allegations.
There may be an argument that these higher-ups that have had their reputation tarnished are taking the easy way out. With this acquisition, they can leave the company and earn a big paycheck whilst they are at it. Watson believes that this is their motive and that the sale does not otherwise benefit anyone at Activision Blizzard.
A war on two fronts
This lawsuit isn’t the only example of an Activision shareholder suing the publisher. Last year several shareholders sued it for failing to address the ongoing sexual harassment. These shareholders believe that the higher-ups were guilty of negligence and cultivating a hostile environment.
In addition, a separate lawsuit from Shiva Stein has been directed at Activision just this morning. Stein’s complaints are similar to Watson’s with them questioning the justification of the sale. How these lawsuits turn out and if the Microsoft acquisition still goes through is to be seen.
Following Microsoft’s incredible $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, some Sony fans have been concerned about the fate of Activision’s biggest titles. Amongst these arguably none are as big as Call of Duty. Thankfully, head of Xbox Phil Spencer has confirmed on Twitter that Call of Duty will remain on PlayStation consoles.
Spencer posted: “Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony. I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation.”
This is huge news for Sony fans who were concerned over the future of Activision’s hit first-person shooter. Microsoft previously claimed that Bethesda titles would launch first on Xbox but an equivalent doesn’t seem to be planned this time around. It’s early days but PlayStation owners can probably relax knowing that Call of Duty isn’t going anywhere.
In saying that Call of Duty has had several Sony exclusive bonuses that are almost certain to be discontinued. The bonus experience and additional battle pass tier skips are unlikely to remain a thing. If Xbox and PC owners end up with those benefits instead is still to be seen.
Xbox is growing
With Bethesda acquired in 2021 and now Activision Blizzard following the same fate the Xbox brand is growing. The motive behind this takeover can be divided into two halves. One, Microsoft likely wants to expand into the mobile market and Activision studio King has plenty of experience in that department. After all, its responsible for Candy Crush which is arguably the most successful mobile game ever made.
The second reason for this takeover is to expand the Game Pass. Both PC Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass can now benefit from the hundreds of unique titles and IPs owned by Activision Blizzard. That includes staple franchises like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and Overwatch.
It would be an understatement to say that things are not looking good for Activision Blizzard. The huge AAA publisher has been under investigation for various breaches of worker rights over the last few months. But somehow things look even worse at Activision. There are evidence found that CEO Bobby Kotick is part of the bad portion.
This follows Kotick’s previous statement that Activision would do everything possible to improve the company’s toxic culture. Yet his ability to do so is now being questioned with many feeling that he is part of the problem. According to Wall Street Journal, Kotick is ready to “consider leaving the company,” if things don’t improve.
Uproar at Activision
Several Activision employees have demanded that CEO Bobby Kotick steps down. Furthermore, there is the expectation that the company’s shareholders will be able to select his replacement without his input. There are many reasons for Activision to leave its past behind.
This development follows both PlayStation and Xbox announcing that they will be investigating their relationship with Activision. It’s unclear what this could result in but at the very least it’s unlikely that either will be looking to directly work with Activision anytime soon. If two industry leaders and a state government aren’t enough to force change then nothing will be.
Currently, it is clear that the Activision board is in support of Kotick. Although their support is beginning to waver as more and more reports come to light. Their biggest concern is that Kotick was aware of the allegations and actively attempted to hide them from the public eye.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Activision. The games publisher announced its intentions to fix its culture by making a variety of changes.
However, if Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is the man to achieve that is to be seen.
It hasn’t been a good week for Activision. The American games publisher was sued by the state of California for several cases of sexual harassment targeted against female employees. These cases dated back decades. To make matters worse, higher ups like CEO Bobby Kotick have not said anything since the accusations surfaced. This lack of acknowledgement has gone down so badly that a group of Activision Blizzard employees have put together a letter condemning Activision’s response.
As reported by Polygon, 800 employees have signed a letter in support of demands that the publisher recognize the seriousness of the accusations. The employees involved have requested that Activision puts out a meaningful statement. Up until now, it has seemingly been trying to sweep the matter under the rug.
The letter posted by Activision Blizzard employees outlines several issues with the company’s response. It starts out by expressing concerns that the leadership at Activision are not accurately representing their employees’ values.
Furthermore, workers at Activision are concerned that the publisher’s actions are damaging the ongoing quest for equality. Those involved were particularly disappointed in Activision’s choice to label the accusations as ‘distorted’ and ‘false’ rather than take responsibility.
These words spoken by vice president Frances Townsend were labelled as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘insulting’. The letter even pushes for Townsend to step down from her role as executive sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network. This request was made with the goal of creating a community where people can comfortably speak out and come forward.
As of writing this, Activision Blizzard has neither responded to Polygon or the letter itself. It’s unclear what actions the publisher plans to take having been pushed into a corner by its employees. The original plan to manage the situation internally seems impossible now but we’ll have to wait and see how the situation develops.
Activision-Blizzard and King Digital Entertainment have released a joint statement announcing that Activision-Blizzard has acquired the mobile development company. King is most famous for Candy Crush Saga and has released numerous successful mobile titles under the free-to-play business model. Activision-Blizzard acquired the company at $18 per share for a total of $5.9 billion. It doesn’t appear that any major changes will take place at King following the acquisition as the statement makes clear that King will still operate independently and that Chief Executive Officer Riccardo Zacconi, Chief Creative Officer Sebastian Knutsson, and Chief Operating Officer Stephane Kurgan will retain their positions within King as prior. Along with profiting from the emerging mobile market in general, a major motivation for the acquisition appears to be bringing Activision and Blizzard’s IP’s to mobile as the statement puts a fair deal of emphasis on franchises owned by the companies. You can read the full joint statement here.
While Activision and Blizzard are major names among core gamers, King is far from revered with the same crowd. Along with the general bias often held against mobile games, King stirred up controversy last year when it filed lawsuits against smaller studios using the words ‘candy’ or ‘saga’ in their titles, including a “Notice of Opposition” against Stoic for their viking-based strategy-RPG The Banner Saga. It seems unlikely that fans of Call of Duty, Diablo, or the like would be too excited about any mobile spin-offs with King’s name on them.
What are your thoughts on Activision, Blizzard, and King joining forces? Are there any franchises you would like to see or dread seeing worked on by King? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.