What you need to know
- Activision-Blizzard makes games like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch.
- The state of California is suing Activision, alleging a sexist, "frat boy" culture that marginalizes women.
- A senior Blizzard developer says that plumetting morale has all but ended development on World of Warcraft.
Last week, a bombshell lawsuit dropped on Activision-Blizzard, alleging gross misconduct directed at women employees, after a multi-year investigation. The lawsuit describes a "frat boy" culture by which female employees are subjected to harassment, unequal pay, and unequal opportunities, while perpetrators get shielded by upper management. Activision Blizzard denied the claims in a lawsuit, while talking about how Blizzard is apparently actually great. Multi-millionaire CEO Bobby Kotick has thus far been too much of a coward to put out a statement of its own, hiding behind subordinates instead.
Recently, a senior developer on World of Warcraft posted a series of tweets reacting to the lawsuit (via TheGamer), joining many other Blizzard employees in expressing their disgust with the reports. Additionally, he noted that development on World of Warcraft has effectively ceased due to the upheaval. "Activision's response to this is currently taking a group of world-class developers and making them so mad and traumatized they're rendered unable to keep making a great game," Jeff Hamilton noted. "I find Activision's corporate response wholly unacceptable. I don't stand by it, any of it. It is evil to usurp a victim's story into a rhetorical bludgeon, and it is abhorrent to reply to these accusations with anything other than a well-thought-out plan to correct these abuses."
I don't know what to do. I don't have all the answers. I can tell you, almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out. And that benefits nobody - not the players, not the developers, not the shareholders.I don't know what to do. I don't have all the answers. I can tell you, almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out. And that benefits nobody - not the players, not the developers, not the shareholders.— Jeff Hamilton (@JeffAHamilton) July 25, 2021July 25, 2021
In discussions off and on the record with both current and former Blizzard staff, all of them echoed Hamilton's sentiment to me that Activision's response was lacking. Compliance Officer Fran Townsend's statement heartlessly dismissed victims report as "out of context" or "old," while talking about how great her experience has been, from the gold-plated ivory towers of Activision's board room.
Activision Blizzard continues to boast massive profits on the back of its pay-to-win mobile division King and its tried-and-tested Call of Duty franchise. Blizzard has seen its monthly active players decrease by almost a third in recent years, however. Activision's tendrils continue to infect the studio, cutting corners and imposing strict deadlines, trying to make Blizzard into something it isn't. A mass exodus of players from World of Warcraft to FFXIV has also been in the news cycle recently, after players reject the slide in quality in the game at large.
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is paid to the tune of $150 million in bonuses, and has thus far been too much of a coward to address the turmoil taking place within his own company. If nothing else, the robotic responses from Activision corporate, coupled with unnecessary mass layoffs, speak to a culture where staff are considered expendable cogs in an unfeeling money-making machine. Everybody deserves to feel safe at work, and Kotick and his executive leadership minions are responsible for a mass dereliction of duty right now.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!