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Two weeks after Activision Blizzard effectively dismissed a harassment lawsuit filed against it, company CEO Bobby Kotick claims the publisher will now "set the example" on inclusion and equality.

Game Developer, Staff

August 4, 2021

3 Min Read

Two weeks after Activision Blizzard described a harassment lawsuit filed against it as "distorted" and "false," company CEO Bobby Kotick claims the publisher will now "set the example" on inclusion and equality in the games industry. 

"We so appreciate the current and former employees who have come forward in past and recent days with courage," said Kotick during an earnings call. "And I want to reiterate the commitments we have made to you. Our work environment everywhere we operate will not permit discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment. We will be the company that sets the example for this in our industry. While we've taken many steps towards this objective already, today, we are taking even more."

It's a remarkable change in messaging considering Activision Blizzard's initial response to the lawsuit, which was filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and contained a number of serious harassment and bullying allegations, was to paint it as an outdated representation of Blizzard's past.

Those sentiments were also echoed internally, with Activision executive Fran Townsend later emailing staff to explain it was the lawsuit, rather than the multiple allegations of harassment and abuse, that was causing damage to the company. 

"A recently filed lawsuit presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories -- some from more than a decade ago," wrote Townsend. 

Despite Kotick taking a sympathetic tone when speaking up during the earnings call, he was called out earlier that day by a group of Activision Blizzard employees for failing to take the matter seriously or committing to enact meaningful changes. The group also dug into Kotick for hiring law firm WilmerHale to conduct an internal review of the company, highlighting the firm's pre-existing ties to Activision Blizzard and its executives. 

"The solutions you proposed in that letter did not meaningfully address our requests," the ABK Workers Alliance wrote in an open letter, addressing Kotick directly. "You ignored our call for an end to mandatory arbitration. You did not commit to adopting inclusive recruitment and hiring practices. You made no comment on pay transparency."

Kotick also pledged to terminate any employees -- including managers and leaders -- who "impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences." 

That promise comes after Blizzard president J Allen Brack departed the company in the wake of the lawsuit and the staff walkout, with Blizzard's now-former senior people officer Jesse Meschuk also stepping down on the same day. 

Blizzard's EVP of development, Jen Oneal, and EVP and general manager of platform and technology, Mike Ybarra, have been appointed as the company's new co-leaders. In a statement sent to Gamasutra yesterday, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said the pair will help steer the troubled company in a new direction.

"It became clear to J. Allen Brack and Activision Blizzard leadership that Blizzard Entertainment needs a new direction and leadership given the critical work ahead in terms of workplace culture, game development, and innovation," they commented.

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