Xbox head Phil Spencer has sharply criticised Activision Blizzard and its CEO Bobby Kotick, saying that Xbox is “evaluating” its relationship with the company.
The comments come from an email to staff and shared by Bloomberg, in which Spencer states that Xbox is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.” This is following reports that Kotick has known about misconduct at the company for years – as well as allegations against Kotick himself being detailed by the Wall Street Journal.
Spencer remarked that he and the leadership team at Microsoft are “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” at Activision Blizzard, going on to state that “this type of behaviour has no place in our industry.”
The Xbox chief later re-iterated these sentiments to IGN. Spencer did not provide any concrete details about what Xbox is going to do about the situation, he did issue the following statement:
“I personally have strong values for a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox. This is not a destination but a journey that we will always be on. The leadership at Xbox and Microsoft stand by our teams and support them in building a safer environment for all.”
Spencer isn’t alone in speaking out either – PlayStation’s Jim Ryan sent a similar note to staff, writing that Activision Blizzard “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment,” and that they “do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”
Still, Spencer is the first to openly speculate about his ongoing relationship with Activision Blizzard – though actual details about what, if anything, Xbox will do to distance itself from the company remains to be seen.
Activision responded to Spencer’s comments to IGN, promising change at the company:
“We respect all feedback from our valued partners and are engaging with them further. 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.”
However, despite Activision promising change, Activision’s board of directors is, shamefully, standing behind Kotick. Despite the numerous allegations, and the crisis the company has been engulfed in under his leadership, the board “remains confident” in Kotick’s “leadership, commitment and ability.”
The ongoing crisis at Activision Blizzard increased this week with the release of a Wall Street Journal report, which claimed that not only has CEO Bobby Kotick known about sexual harassment at the company for years, he has sought to protect some of those accused, and has been accused of abusive behaviour himself.
For instance, the WSJ reports that Treyarch co-head Dan Bunting was accused of sexually harassing a female employee in 2017. After Activision’s human-resources department and other supervisors recommended that he be fired following an internal investigation, Kotick intervened to keep him at the company. Bunting was given counselling and allowed to remain at the company, though left after the WSJ inquired about the allegations.
In the report, it is also claimed that in 2006 Kotick harassed one of his assistants by threatening to have her killed in a threatening voice mail. The matter was settled out of court, according to people familiar with the matter.