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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick Addresses "Tone Deaf" Response To Lawsuit

The Activision Blizzard CEO has issued a new statement after staff condemned the company's first response.


Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has issued a letter to employees addressing the lawsuit brought against the company by the state of California that alleges widespread harassment, discrimination, and a "frat boy" culture at the gaming giant. In the letter to staff, he called the initial response from Activision Blizzard "tone deaf," and promised changes. "It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way," Kotick's letter read. "I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding."

Activision Blizzard's initial response called the lawsuit "distorted, and in many cases false," and was widely condemned by staff who saw the response as downplaying legitimate issues at the company. Over 1000 current and former employees at the company signed an open letter that condemned the company's initial response to the lawsuit, with current employees also planning a walkout on Wednesday as a protest. Activision's share price has taken a hit since the walkout was announced, plunging from around $90 a share on July 26 to $82.38 on the 27th.

The letter promises five immediate changes within the company, including adding more staff and support to its human resources team, and implementing "listening spaces" moderated by third parties for staff to share ideas for improvement. Another list item reiterates that diverse hiring practices are mandatory for all open positions--though this policy was already in place earlier this year.

The letter also said that leaders and management across the company were being evaluated, with anyone found to have "impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences," to have their employment terminated. Kotick also said that some "inappropriate" in-game content would be removed, though did not specify what content or games would be modified.

The employees behind Wednesday's walkout have their own list of demands, including an end to mandatory arbitration clauses, new recruiting and hiring policies that improve diversity, and making compensation for employees public.

In response to Activision Blizzard CEO's statement and the company's previous statement, organizers of the walkout staged at Blizzard Entertainment's headquarters said Activision Blizzard leadership "fail[ed] to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns."

In a statement shared with Axios, the organizers said they were pleased to see that their stance had "convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications," but reiterated their demands that they said were not addressed by Kotick's comments.

The statement goes on to say that employees will neither "return to silence" nor "be placated by the same processes." They say Wednesday's walkout is not a one-time event. To them, it's the beginning of "an enduring movement in favor of better labor conditions for all employees," while seeking "a constructive dialogue on how to build a better Activision" for everyone.

You can read Bobby Kotick's full letter below:

This has been a difficult and upsetting week.

I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters - and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future.

Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.

It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.

Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from caring so deeply for the Company. That so many people have reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions, and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. Ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my highest priority. The leadership team has heard you loud and clear.

We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.

We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration. I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.

We encourage anyone with an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use any of our many existing channels for reporting or to reach out to Stephanie. She and her team at WilmerHale will be available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at or 202-247-2725. Your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.

We are committed to long-lasting change. Effective immediately, we will be taking the following actions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.

You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world.

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