Video game: Xbox and PlayStation “concerned” by the management of Activision by its historic CEO

Activision Blizzard employees at a protest march in Los Angeles on July 28, 2021.

This is an investigation by the Wall Street Journal that, on Tuesday, November 16, set fire to gunpowder, to the leadership of Activision Blizzard, and in particular to Bobby Kotick, president and chief executive officer (CEO) for thirty years of this giant. U.S. video game, he is accused of having ignored, if not covered, several cases of harassment, assault, even rape that occurred within the company.

Mr. Kotick is accused in particular of personally intervening to save the position of one of the leaders of an Activision Blizzard subsidiary, yet was found responsible for harassment during an internal investigation. Among other accounts of a toxic corporate culture, the Wall Street Journal investigation also raises allegations of intimidation against Kotick.

Although the company, contacted by the American newspaper, admitted that it could not have ensured that “the behavior of all [ses] employees complied [ses] values ​​and [ses] expectations “, defends its CEO, however, explaining” that he could not be informed of all bad behavior within each of Activision Blizzard’s branches, nor is it reasonable to expect that he will be kept abreast of all individual problems. “that affect the employees of the company.

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Call for resignation

As a result of the Wall Street Journal investigation, more than 800 Activision Blizzard employees have asked to resign, and a group of minority shareholders have voiced the same demand. The group’s board of directors, for its part, reiterated its confidence in Mr. Kotick and in his ability to implement the necessary measures to resolve the situation.

But today it is no longer just employees or former employees who criticize Bobby Kotick and the management of Activision Blizzard, but two of its most important business partners: those responsible for Xbox and PlayStation, both consoles. most in.

On Wednesday, it was first Jim Ryan, head of Sony’s PlayStation division, who shared the Wall Street Journal survey in an email sent to his employees. In this email obtained by Bloomberg, he explains that he is “disgusted and frankly stunned.” [d’apprendre] that Activision has not been empowered to combat this ingrained culture of discrimination and harassment. “

In the same email to his employees, Mr. Ryan explains that he contacted Activision after the article was published to “express [son] concern and ask them what means they were going to implement to fight “against the dysfunctions indicated by the Wall Street Journal.” “We consider that their explanations are not up to the situation,” he concludes, referring to the responses given to the US newspaper.

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The next day, it was the turn of Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox division at Microsoft, to comment on the matter in an email that was circulated to employees and that Bloomberg was also able to obtain. He said there “disturbed and deeply disturbed” by the Wall Street Journal story, evoking behaviors that “have no place in our industry.” Going further than his PlayStation counterpart, he explains “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard” and claims to be making “adjustments.”

A complaint this summer

This is not the first time that Activision Blizzard management has faced such allegations. The company was the subject of a complaint by the California Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in July, based on a two-year investigation.

In a press release, a company representative said he was “disgusted” by the allegations and said they “do not represent the work environment of Activision Blizzard today.” A group executive, Frances Townsend, later said in an internal memo that this very complaint was “unfounded and irresponsible”, gave “a distorted and false image of our company” and included “old stories taken out of context and objectively incorrect.” “.

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In protest, between 200 and 350 employees demonstrated in front of the company’s facilities, considering the management response insufficient. Bobby Kotick himself had apologized for Activision’s initial response, lamenting that management “could not offer adequate empathy and understanding.” However, we learned today, in the Wall Street Journal investigation, that Mr. Kotick is in fact the author of the internal memo officially attributed to Frances Townsend.

Since then, Activision Blizzard has announced the creation of an $ 18 million fund, which will be used to compensate victims identified by the EEOC.

Is Mr. Kotick untouchable?

If Bobby Kotick continues to have the support of his board of directors for the moment, it is because he made Activision, a company on the brink of bankruptcy thirty years ago, one of the main giants in the sector.

Editor in the early 2000s of hit series such as Call of Duty, Guitar Hero or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Activision also became the owner of Vivendi’s video games division in 2008, in the process of recovering its subsidiary Blizzard and immensely popular series, like World. of Warcraft or Starcraft. Most recently, in 2015, Activision acquired King Digital Entertainment, the studio responsible for Candy Crush Saga, one of the most profitable apps in mobile video game history. Today, according to the publisher, 400 million people play at least one Activision game every month.

Historically the first “independent” video game publisher (in the sense that it was the first to have developed and published, as of 1979, games destined for consoles designed by competing companies, such as Atari yesterday, or Sony and Microsoft today), under Under Mr. Kotick’s presidency, Activision became the leading US publisher in terms of turnover. To the point of making Bobby Kotick one of the highest paid bosses in the industry, under fire from critics, he had also announced in October that he was cutting his salary and all his pay by two.

However, is Bobby Kotick untouchable? Ironically, if Activision made its fortune developing games for other companies’ consoles, it is its dependence on these same companies that could weaken its CEO, at a time when it does not. .

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