Employees at beleaguered video game company Activision Blizzard are walking out Tuesday after details emerged in a Wall Street Journal report that CEO Bobby Kotick knew about sexual misconduct claims at the company and didn’t inform his board of directors for years. The total number of employees planning to walk out is unclear. Employees in attendance counted approximately 110 people in front of the Irvine, Calif., campus as of 12:46 p.m. Pacific time; one current employee estimated that about 200 people would participate. In an internal video message Tuesday morning, Kotick responded to the news, telling employees that, “There’s an article today that paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.”
“Anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me,” Kotick said.
A number of Activision Blizzard employees declared on Twitter that they would stop working Tuesday in protest. They advanced several demands, including that Kotick be replaced as CEO and the company undergo a review by a worker-appointed third-party. Those who work from home plan to pause work to join in solidarity with employees who are meeting up in front of the Irvine campus in a physical walkout. This is the second employee walkout the company has seen in the past four months.
In a statement to The Post regarding the walkout, Activision Blizzard wrote: “We are fully committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and rewarding environment for all of our employees around the world. We support their right to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation.”
Jessica Gonzalez, a senior test analyst for Battle.net of Activision’s subsidiary, Blizzard Entertainment, first posted to Twitter at 9:43 a.m. Pacific time that she was walking out and calling for the resignation of Kotick, Chief Administrative Officer Brian Bulatao and Corporate Affairs Vice President Frances Townsend.
“We all think Bobby’s not leading like he should be leading,” Gonzalez told The Post in a phone interview last week. “He’s trying to do the minimum possible to get people off his back. I just don’t feel that he’s in touch with game development and having this weird crunch and exploitation of labor in this industry, it’s just not how you make a good product.”
A Wall Street Journal article on Tuesday claimed that Kotick knew of sexual misconduct allegations at the company, and in some cases fought to keep employees accused of harassment in positions of power while keeping his board of directors in the dark. It also stated that former female co-leader of Blizzard, Jen Oneal, emailed Activision’s legal team in September to discuss her resignation, saying that she had been discriminated against and underpaid compared to her male counterpart, Mike Ybarra.
Current and former Activision Blizzard employees said that the walkout is taking place Tuesday because workers are fed up with management’s response to stories of misconduct coming out.
“These repeated attempts to deny and ignore the reality of the situation is pushing employees to the brink. I’m seeing lots of references to it damaging morale and productivity,” said Jennifer Klasing, a former “World of Warcraft” quest designer who left the company in October 2020 and plans to attend the walkout.
In a statement to The Post, Activision Blizzard wrote: “We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace.” Activision Blizzard’s board of directors stated on Tuesday that it remains “confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership” and that Kotick has addressed the workplace issues he became aware of.
“Nothing in Activision Blizzard’s statement challenges the facts in our reporting,” wrote Steve Severinghaus, senior director of communications at Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, in response to Activision Blizzard’s statement.
A current Activision employee who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation said, “I’ve long been afraid of return[ing] to [the] office, as I knew both Bobby and Brian had threatened or used intimidation tactics in the past. Seeing it in text from other people? [It] validates everything.”