A few weeks ago, I wrote an article titled “Why is Bobby Kotick cowering behind subordinates?” wherein I question why, in the midst of a massive lawsuit for Activision Blizzard’s workplace practices, he rolled out subordinate Fran Townsend to react and reassure staff, with a message he would later describe as “tone-deaf.”
It turns out that good old Bobbyboy is not only a bit of a coward, but he may also be a liar.
A devastating report from the Wall Street Journal claimed today that Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend didn’t write the letter at all, but it was in fact Kotick himself, using Townsend as a shield. Assuming the report is accurate, it is an incredible indictment of Kotick’s character: victory at any cost, even at the expense of others. Given the way Kotick has handled his tenure running Activision Blizzard and its subsidiaries, this seems firmly in line with his character. Protect himself and the profits at the expense of literally everything, including other people.
The WSJ says Kotick knew, and yet did nothing
The WSJ report describes how Bobby intervened to prevent a man Activision itself investigated and recommended should be fired, from being fired. Accused of sexual harassment, Treyarch studio lead Dan Bunting was protected and “disciplined in other ways,” according to an Activision statement, most likely based solely on his ability to squeeze money out of one of Activision’s biggest assets, Call of Duty. Bunting has since stepped down following the WSJ’s report, but that’s not all the WSJ has to say about Kotick.
Kotick also is not only alleged to have known in graphic detail a number of complaints leveled against employees, but is also described as being accused himself, in matters that were supposedly settled outside of court. The report also describes how Jennifer Oneal, Activision-Blizzard’s first female studio lead, not only had her pay set lower than her male counterpart Mike Ybarra, but also felt that it was clear Activision’s executive layer would “never do right by its staff.” It was announced earlier this month that she would be leaving the company.
At best, this calls into question Kotick’s ability to lead. We know from his actions that he seemed to be interested only in the bottom line, especially at the expense of others. We see this in how developers and support staff are laid off in the the hundreds to protect quarterly financial goals, only to hire them back gradually over time later. It also comes at the expense of the games themselves, which devolve ever further into cut and paste jobs, owing to the absolutely unnecessary need to have a Call of Duty every single damn year without fail, often laced with damaging developer crunch.
It only seems appropriate that Kotick has only been stirred from indifference now that the behavior of some of his male employees will no longer remain secret. Execs knew and did nothing, until it affected the money.
Bobby Kotick must resign
Kotick is a guardian of the status quo, and is not the leader Activision Blizzard’s talented and passionate developers and staff need, nor deserve. His position is tarnished to the point of irredeemability, and I have no idea how you can have someone wholly devoid of trustworthiness heading up one of the biggest gaming employers on Earth. The only way Activision Blizzard moves forward from this is an utter top-down cleanse of its money-first executive layer and board of directors, who are actively putting profits before the human beings they employ.
Even before these most recent revelations, and as I wrote before, it’s far past time for Kotick to resign. I am echoing Polygon, and in support of Blizzard staff who have already begun walking out: Bobby Kotick must resign.