Activision Blizzard's Year Keeps Getting Worse
Earlier, we had a piece detailing Blizzard’s legal woes, their history of sexual abuse and discrimination, and the worst parts of the culture that they’d fostered over the years. It seemed at the time like a particularly bad version of the oldest story ever told: giant business is accused of horrific things, public outcry ensues, giant business pledges to change, everything goes back to how it was before but with more corporate profit and less hope. Sure, I was hopeful that there would be some backlash and maybe Blizzard would actually have to change internally, but I never really thought things would get much worse for one of the biggest names in gaming.
Boy, was I wrong.
When we last left Blizzard, they were being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for cultivating a “frat boy culture,” and J Allen Brack, the President of Blizzard, stepped down and let two other people, Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal, take over. In the last three months, Blizzard has fallen farther and farther from grace, receiving bad news after bad news.
The first piece of bad news is pretty predictable- Blizzard shareholders were none too happy that execs hadn’t told them about the pending DFEH lawsuit, seeing as how it’s pretty dang material to whether or not you’d wanna keep your stock. On August 3rd, Blizzard stock owners filed a class-action lawsuit against the company. I hate to offer financial advice, but I don’t think that’s gonna help their portfolios.
And if they were mad at Blizzard execs before, they must have been livid when the DFEH expanded their suit to allege that Blizzard execs were shredding evidence of abuse. According to the DFEH, the company’s HR department was tearing up documents-- apparently by hand. I hate to offer legal advice, but I don’t think that’s gonna help their defense. (Also, a paper shredder is $40, you cheapskates.) And neither did their chief legal officer, apparently, seeing as how she resigned. She wasn’t alone- the head of Overwatch 2 also said peace out.
Blizzard then got a little bit of a break. They settled an EEOC gender discrimination lawsuit for a cool $18 million. The money would be split between complainants and initiatives to promote diversity in gaming. It wasn’t lost on the gaming community that this is a pittance for the multibillion-dollar company, and Kotaku pointed out that CEO Bobby Kotick made almost 10 times that in 2021.
… and apparently, Bobby Kotick heard that what they said about him because in late October, he asked for a pay cut. In an act of extremely eye-rolling martyrdom, he cut his salary to the lowest possible and stripped himself of all bonuses. My heart really goes out to him. Now all he has is a $62k salary … and millions upon millions upon millions in the bank. You’ll see him at Goodwill next time he needs a suit, I’m sure.
Recently Blizzard got two more pieces of bad news. Jen Oneal, one of the two people who stepped up when J Allen Brack stepped away, has decided to leave Blizzard after just three months. She went to join a non-profit promoting women in gaming, a huge leap from Blizzard, which is a for-profit against women in gaming. (You made the right choice, Jen.)
But to be honest, people leaving the company is just bad press. Execs leave, and everyone thinks the ship is sinking, but so far, it was all hearsay. That is until their earnings call, where Blizzard was forced to admit that they’d lost 13% of their player base in the last year. That is not small potatoes. And considering their games are aging, there’s no sign that those players will come back. Why would someone play Starcraft 2 when Age of Empires IV is out? Overwatch when Call of Duty and Valorant exist? And who cares that WoW is getting a re-release of its old content when Final Fantasy XIV is getting brand new content? With the delays of Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV and a name synonymous with abuse, it looks like it’ll be a long time before Blizzard comes in out of the cold.
Top Image: Blizzard