Blizzard employees weigh costs and benefits of advocating boycott

A number of Activision Blizzard employees have explained to Axios why they're reluctant to advocate for a player boycott of the company’s games.

Activision Blizzard employees have spent the last few weeks rallying to action in the wake of the company’s combative response to a lawsuit filed by the State of California alleging that the company allowed a toxic culture of harassment and discrimination to fester, particularly at Blizzard Entertainment.

Organizing employees have condemned responses to the lawsuit from executive Fran Townsend and CEO Bobby Kotick, organized a walkout, and have promised further action to improve the work culture at Activision Blizzard. But according to a report in Axios, they aren’t quite ready to advocate for a consumer boycott at this time.

Axios’ Megan Farokhmanesh spoke with several anonymous Blizzard employees who argued that an effective boycott may do more harm than good for Blizzard employees. The theory in support of a boycott is that if Activision Blizzard’s financial numbers take a beating, executives will take notice and respond.

But employees aren’t so sure that logic holds up. "Even if a critical mass were reached, it's more likely to result in layoffs on the dev teams than any change in opinion or composition at the top,” one employee told Farokhmanesh.

Blizzard’s profit-sharing bonus structure means that employees could also lose a portion of their income if such boycotts were to impact the company’s revenue. One employee pointed out on Twitter that even just losing those bonuses could impact her ability to pay for childcare.

Given the fears of retaliation expressed by organizing Activision Blizzard employees at the on-campus protest two weeks ago, it’s also not hard to see the company looking a boycott far more harshly than it would a work stoppage. Workers who openly call for a boycott might face internal backlash if the company is able to identify them.

Boycotts do sometimes play a part in resolving work disputes. Recently, striking Frito-Lay employees called for a boycott of snack and drink products sold by Frito-Lay owner Pepsi Co. while workers walked out of a Kansas factory where they were pulling 60-80 hour workweeks.

It’s also understandable why some players may want to spend their money elsewhere in the wake of the many stories that have emerged over the last few weeks. It’s hard to feel good about spending your money and feeling like it’s going to rewarding bad actors.

There’s no easy answer in this story. Workers at Activision Blizzard are the most at risk no matter how players spend their money, and still have a long road ahead before it’s clear if anything’s changed after the lawsuit.

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