Microsoft’s Phil Spencer says he is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments” in the wake of the Wall Street Journal’s report on alleged misconduct and criminal behaviour within the publisher. Spencer made the comments in an email sent to Microsoft staff and seen by Bloomberg.
Spencer wrote that he was “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” described by the report, which included detailed allegations of sexual harassment within Activision Blizzard, as well as allegations against Kotick himself including that he threatened to kill an employee. “This type of behaviour has no place in our industry,” wrote Spencer.
This email comes after PlayStation head Jim Ryan wrote a similar email to staff which criticised Activision’s response to the revelations of misconduct within the company. The allegations first became public after a lawsuit filed by the State Of California in July, which Activision Blizzard initially categorised as “distorted, and in many cases false”.
“We respect all feedback from our valued partners and are engaging with them further,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement given to IGN in response to Microsoft’s comments. “We have detailed important changes we have implemented in recent weeks, and we will continue to do so. We are committed to the work of ensuring our culture and workplace are safe, diverse, and inclusive. We know it will take time, but we will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”
To be clear, both the Sony and Microsoft emails, which were leaked to the press, were undoubtedly written with the explicit intent that they be leaked to press. I am extremely skeptical at the suggestion that either company will do anything substantive beyond perhaps saving face by pulling what would be badly timed adverts for Activision games.
Nevertheless, both statements mount public pressure on Activision Blizzard. Since the WSJ report was published on Tuesday, Activision employees have demanded Bobby Kotick’s removal as CEO and held a company walkout. Over a thousand employees have also signed a petition calling for his removal. An Activision Blizzard shareholders group also want him removed. So far, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors have only released statements standing by Kotick. How long that lasts remains to be seen.