Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick says company's response to lawsuit was 'tone deaf' (Update)


The Activision Blizzard CEO promises “swift action” to ensure a safe environment

Last night, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick sent a letter to all company employees, addressing its response to last week’s lawsuit filing. In it, the CEO calls the initial responses “tone deaf” and outlines a few steps the company is immediately taking.

“It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way,” said Kotick in the letter. “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or DFEH, filed a lawsuit last week following a two-year investigation into Activision Blizzard’s culture, alleging discrimination and sexual harassment. Activision Blizzard’s initial response claimed that the lawsuit contained “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”

The response from Activision Blizzard employees has been to sign a letter decrying the leadership’s response as “abhorrent and insulting,” and to plan a walkout being held today, July 28, both online and at the Blizzard campus in Irvine. Their demands include removing mandatory arbitration clauses, improving hiring, recruiting, and promotion practices, and to generally improve conditions for employees at the company, “especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.”

In Kotick’s letter to the staff, the Activision Blizzard CEO says the company will be taking “swift action” to ensure a safe environment, including a review of policies and procedures from law firm WilmerHale, continued investigation into claims, and more resources put into diverse hiring practices.

In-game content is also being adjusted in response to input from employee and player communities, as noted by the World of Warcraft team yesterday. Wowhead has been cataloging the changes, which include the removal of several references to former Senior Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi.

Activision Blizzard employees plan to walk out today, as participants and supporters are boosting the #ActiBlizzWalkout hashtag. Organizers have asked supporters to use the tag, as well as donate to various charities, including Black Girls Code, Futures Without Violence, Girls Who Code, RAINN, Women in Animation, and Women in Games International.

[UpdateThe organizers of today’s walkout have released a response to Kotick’s letter, highlighting several areas the CEO did not address, including:

  • The end of forced arbitration for all employees.
  • Worker participation in oversight of hiring and promotion policies.
  • The need for greater pay transparency to ensure equality.
  • Employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes.

“We expect a prompt response and a commitment to action from leadership on the points enumerated above, and look forward to maintaining a constructive dialogue on how to build a better Activision Blizzard for all employees,” said the organizers (emphasis theirs).

You can find the letter in full on Kotaku.]