Blizzard addresses regaining player trust as Kotick’s all-hands meeting leaves workers unsettled


Earlier this evening, Blizzard’s Mike Ybarra posted a public message to the company’s players. Ybarra, of course, was appointed co-lead of Blizzard Entertainment following the ouster of J. Allen Brack last summer; his fellow co-lead, Jen Oneal, quit last fall following the reveal that she’d been underpaid compared to Ybarra and had been harassed and tokenized (though not by Ybarra).

Ybarra obliquely addresses the ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination and labor scandal, as well as this week’s news that Microsoft is buying Activision-Blizzard, in saying Blizzard’s top priority is “the work [Blizzard is] doing to rebuild your trust in Blizzard,” which is a weird way to center players’ opinions in a situation mostly about labor and accountability.

To that end, Ybarra says the studio will be “measuring [its] executive and management teams directly against culture improvement,” including Ybarra, as well as dedicating more full-time positions to improving Blizzard culture by hiring a culture lead, a new “organization leader” for HR, and a diversity and inclusion rep. He also says Blizzard has tripled the size of its compliance/investigation teams, that there’s a new feedback program for workers, and that policies apply even to leadership and management, the last of which has been a bone of contention already as Activision executives have not been held accountable.

Apparently we can look forward to some sort of announcement next week.

“We also know we need to deliver content to our players on a more regular basis and innovate both in and beyond our existing games. We have some exciting things to announce, and I’ll be sharing more next week.”

Meanwhile, WAPO reports that Bobby Kotick led a brief all-hands virtual meeting with Activision-Blizzard workers this morning, telling them that he was committed to remaining in his role as CEO: “Once the deal closes, what I’ve committed to Microsoft is I will stay as long as is necessary to ensure that we have a great integration and a great transition.” He also apparently told workers that Microsoft was “committed to trying to retain as many of [ABK’s] people as possible,” which workers interpreted as a hint that layoffs are coming eventually. Another source said Kotick “likened Activision to be as important as his children,” which workers assumed means he will have to be pried away from the company. He apparently did not mention the strike, lawsuits, or ongoing scandal.

Source: Blizzard, WAPO, Kotaku
Activision-Blizzard is considered a controversial gaming company owing to a long string of scandals over the last few years, including the Blitzchung boycott, mass layoffs, labor disputes, and executive pay fiasco. In 2021, the company was sued by California for fostering a work environment rife with sexual harassment and discrimination, the disastrous corporate response to which compounded Blizzard’s ongoing pipeline issues and the widespread perception that its online games are in decline. Multiple state and federal agencies are investigating the company as employees strike and call for Bobby Kotick’s resignation. As of 2022, the company is being acquired by no less than Microsoft.
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