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Activision Blizzard CEO apologises for “tone deaf” lawsuit response

"Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf"

Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick has penned an open letter to employees, admitting that the publisher’s initial responses to a recently filed discrimination lawsuit that accused the publisher of fostering a “frat boy” office culture “were, quite frankly, tone deaf”.

“It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way,” he says. “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding. Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from caring so deeply for the company. That so many people have reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions, and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. Ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my highest priority. The leadership team has heard you loud and clear.”

Kotick explains that law firm WilmerHale will conduct a review of the company’s policies and procedures to ensure Activision Blizzard promotes a respectful and inclusive workplace, inviting staffers to reach out anonymously to the firm if they have something to share.

Moving forward, Kotick explains Activision Blizzard is making several changes to bring about “long-lasting change”, effective immediately. The publisher is evaluating managers and leaders across the company. Anyone found to have “impeded the integrity” of Activision Blizzard’s “processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences” will be fired immediately.

The publisher is also adding additional senior staff and “other resources” to both the compliance and employee relations team to ensure it investigates “each and every claim” and takes appropriate action when necessary. Third parties will also moderate listening sessions, and a directive to improve diverse hiring procedures is taking place. Finally, Kotick has promised to remove all “inappropriate content” from Activision Blizzard’s games, as flagged by staff and player communities.

The orc statue outside of Blizzard's Irvine HQ

Kotick’s open letter follows the news that an Activision Blizzard employee walkout is set to go ahead later today. In a statement given to various outlets, staffers explain that the walkout is in support of four demands: an end to mandatory arbitration in all current and future employee contracts, an employee-agreed diverse hiring plan, the publication of relative compensation and salary details, and a third-party audit of the company’s HR department and executive staff.

That came after another open letter co-signed by 2,000 current and former Activision Blizzard staffers (and counting), which labelled Activision Blizzard’s initial response to the lawsuit as “abhorrent and insulting”.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit against Activision Blizzard is ongoing.