Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal published a report outlining Activision CEO Bobby Kotick’s prior knowledge of — and involvement in — the toxic work culture that pervaded his company. The article alleged that, among other things, Kotick was aware of the sexual assault allegations at Activision and, aside from doing nothing, even went to bat for those accused in order to maintain their positions of power. So far, 500 Activision employees have gone on to sign a petition calling for Kotick’s resignation. Additionally, a group of employees staged a walkout in protest of Kotick on Tuesday.
Today, it was reported that Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox at Microsoft, shared a staff-wide email that expressed discomfort with the way things have been handled at Activision.
The Microsoft executive stated he was “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions [at Activision],” and that “this type of behavior has no place in our industry.” He also said he’s “evaluating all aspects of our [Xbox’s] relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.”
These statements come on the heels of Sony Interactive CEO, Jim Ryan, issuing a similar message to his own staff. In the note, he said that he and his leadership were “disheartened and frankly stunned to read” that Activision “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.”
Unprecedented — Two of the biggest companies within the gaming space are echoing the same sentiment: Activision needs to make a stronger effort to do right by its employees. This sort of collective response has never happened before in the industry and despite a lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Activision is still dragging its feet when it comes to reckoning with its toxic culture.
Following the WSJ report, Activision put out a statement that backed its CEO stating, “The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”
Whether or not Sony or Microsoft actually takes legitimate action against Activision will remain to be seen. It is important to note that both statements from Spencer and Ryan were made somewhat in private, to an internal team. Both companies also have a long-running history with Activision, especially Microsoft after Call of Duty became a modern hit, in part due to Xbox Live.