Microsoft’s proposed acquisition Activision Blizzard King has definitely come beneath an excessive amount of scrutiny.
Placing apart the continuing authorized saga, nevertheless, it’s necessary to ask what precisely the acquisition would entail if it have been to go forward. I sat down with Sarah Bond, Company Vice President at Xbox, to get her tackle what the acquisition would possibly seem like in follow.
Bond wished to reassure PlayStation customers that: “the video games [they love] will proceed to be there” after any potential merger, stating that Xbox is dedicated to creating “cross-platform experiences” which “present up throughout all screens.” Bond continued by affirming that Microsoft is: “open to working with companions”; a dedication it’ll must show whether it is to fulfill the anti-trust issues of the FTC.
Nevertheless, the prospect of a merger raises necessary cultural questions, too, particularly within the shadow of the continuing sexual harassment scandals at Blizzard. Bond was eager to emphasise “the core tenets of [Microsoft]’s tradition: variety, inclusion [and] being customer-centric.”
Bond continued: “there’s a possibility to take the actually inventive groups [at Activision Blizzard] and provides them the tradition that we’ve discovered has been so profitable in our personal group.”
We don’t discuss Bobby
Microsoft has definitely completed a greater job than Activision Blizzard of placing its cash the place its mouth is. In November 2022, the corporate elected to embolden its anti-harassment and variety guidelines following an impartial assessment (via The Verge (opens in new tab)). The latest launch of the Xbox Sustainability Toolkit (opens in new tab) additionally demonstrates a level of social duty on Microsoft’s half – a high quality Bond was eager to emphasise when discussing the corporate’s Internet Zero Carbon Initiative and “dedication” to the atmosphere.
Microsoft takes nice pains to occupy the ethical excessive floor, and it’s clear that the video video games trade advantages from these efforts in a tangible method. This locations Microsoft in stark distinction to Activision Blizzard, the latter of which is topic to quite a few allegations not solely with regard to circumstances of sexual assault and abuse, but in addition in the case of the remedy of their employees as they try and unionize (via TechCrunch (opens in new tab)).
Maybe the largest elephant within the room comes within the type of Bobby Kotic, who grew to become CEO of Activision Blizzard as soon as the businesses have been merged in 2008 and is slated to be stored on after the acquisition. Not solely did Kotic preside over Blizzard throughout a interval of toxic culture and widespread abuse (opens in new tab), it has additionally been alleged in a Wall Street Journal investigation (opens in new tab) that he didn’t share sexual assault and different allegations with the board. As well as, over 1,200 Activision Blizzard staff demanded that Kotick give up in a latest petition (via Kotaku (opens in new tab)).
In a gathering shortly after the Wall Road Journal revealed its investigation, Kotick floated the potential for his resignation, stating that he would take into account leaving if the sexual misconduct points throughout the corporate weren’t fastened “with velocity” (via Wall Street Journal). Thus far, nevertheless, Kotik stays CEO regardless of another sexual harassment lawsuit being raised by an nameless plaintiff in October 2022.
After I requested Bond whether or not or not Microsoft’s plans to maintain Kotic as CEO after the merger, she replied: “I feel tradition is common, and it’s not about anybody particular person.” Whereas that is true to a point, when the particular person in query is the CEO of a serious gaming juggernaut, it’s only proper that his actions be appropriately scrutinized.
Whether or not or not Microsoft has stored Kotik on as a political concession or out of ambivalence, the very fact stays that permitting the Activision Blizzard CEO to stay within the position does undermine Microsoft’s acknowledged cultural targets. Although it doesn’t render the constructive features of Microsoft’s initiatives irrelevant, it reminds us that the company world is messy, mercenary, and uncomfortable.