The longtime CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, reportedly wanted to buyout gaming media outlets Kotaku and PC Gamer because they were publishing articles about him and his company that he didn’t like.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick thought acquiring the media outlets would help “change the public narrative” around Activision Blizzard’s lawsuits surrounding its toxic workplace culture, which includes reports of alleged workplace harassment, sexual assault and even one tragic suicide of a female employee.
Similarly, PC Gamer has also covered the executive’s apparent knowledge of and alleged participation in the ongoing toxicity at Activision Blizzard. PC Gamer reported that Kotick “still gets paid way too much” and may have blocked the release of of “700 reports of possible workplace misconduct,” which Activision Blizzard denies. The media outlet also shared that “Kotick once told an assistant he was going to have her killed.”
It’s no surprise that Kotick considers these publications in opposition to his mission, which appears to be one centered around the suppression of news. But an ethos of suppressing undesirable truths and silencing victims does more harm than good.
The reports that Kotick has tried to sweep his company’s dark history under the rug by buying out whistleblowers won’t solve Activision Blizzard’s systemic issues. The solution to terrible past events is not to just buy the free press when it critiques your leadership.
Ironically, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella — whose company just bought Activision Blizzard — said recently that he believed Kotick held a “commitment to real culture change” and is “grateful” for Kotick’s leadership. This feels bizarrely tone-deaf considering the allegations against Kotick and the employee protests demanding Kotick’s removal.
There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel, however. When the acquisition deal with Microsoft closes, Activision Blizzard will report to Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming. This means Kotick may be leaving Activision Blizzard, but it likely won’t happen until 2023.