Let's be honest; it's no secret how I feel about Activision Blizzard. The company is currently a blight on the face of the earth, having consistently mistreated employees for so long, even my coverage over the past year (rounded up in my piece over consumer backlash to the lawsuit in World of Warcraft) barely scratches the surface. Still, I'm not going to repeat all of the details here; I'll give a quick recap.
That quick recap is as follows:
- California, particularly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), files a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over many, many issues, including but not limited to gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
- Activision Blizzard responds to this lawsuit, stating that accusations are "distorted" and going as far as to say that many of them are "false".
- Players in games such as World of Warcraft respond to this lawsuit, either cancelling subscriptions or - those subscription-locked - staging in-game protests.
- Numerous who used to be within the company have stepped forward, essentially admitting this culture did exist, if not that it still does. These include such as co-founder Mike Morhaime stating that he failed female staff.
- Activision Blizzard staff stage a walkout as a result of the lawsuit, acting in a way that would undeniably gain management's attention, particularly fighting for four points that would benefit all employees.
- Following news of the walkout, Activision Blizzard's share price falls from $90.13 at close on the 26th of July to $82.93 on the 27th of July.
- Unsurprisingly, Management now pays attention when it impacts share price, which comes to today. Bobby Kotick has written an open letter to all employees.
I'm not going to copy out the whole letter here. You can find it by clicking through this link, which will allow you to see the one-page letter from Bobby Kotick to all employees of Activision Blizzard. Anybody who has seen the many issues of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and rape within the games industry over the previous few years will be aware of the response by now.
There's a conciliatory statement of being tone-deaf in the initial response. There's a claim that the company will do more, that they will act. They also claim there's no place for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment at the company, despite facts proving otherwise. It's run of the mill; it reads like an emotionless rag because of how "lawyered" the letter is, and that's because the letter is just that - another legal move.
As for the five actions Bobby Kotick states the company will take, they are below:
- Employee Support. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team.
- Listening Sessions. We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.
- Personnel Changes. We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the Company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.
- Hiring Practices. Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.
- In-game Changes. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content
Needless to say, specific demands of employees aren't being met, one example being the demand for an end to arbitration clauses in contracts that actively prevent employees from coming forward.
In the response letter,
Activision Blizzard's lawyers Bobby Kotick states that the initial response was tone-deaf. Yes, it was. However, in my opinion, the response is still tone-deaf because that response to the lawsuit stands. Activision Blizzard is, legally and officially, still denying these allegations. Until they are willing to come together with California's DFEH and work on a settlement to the lawsuit, the response is still that these allegations are "distorted" and "false".
As for the company's employees, if this doesn't show the need for unionisation within the games industry, nothing will. Collective action has brought Activision Blizzard, one of the biggest games companies in the world, to the table. Unionise, fight for each other and not only will this help get rid of the sexual abusers within the industry, but it will also help protect your employment rights in the future.