Bobby Kotick admits original response to Activision Blizzard backlash was “tone-deaf”

Bobby Kotick at Activision BlizzardWikimedia Commons/Steven Simko

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has apologized for the company’s “tone deaf” initial response to the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a Californian state department. Kotick has also called for a third-party investigation into the company’s policies.

Activision Blizzard’s “pervasive frat boy culture” was exposed in a July 21 lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) following a two-year investigation.

The 29-page lawsuit detailed several instances of sexual harassment and discrimination against women in the workplace on a systemic level. They were paid less than their male counterparts for the same positions, and offered promotions at a slower rate.

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The company’s initial statements called the allegations “distorted…descriptions of Blizzard’s past”. However, as more employees came forward with their own experiences, current and former executives apologized for the culture fostered at the company.

CEO Bobby Kotick apologized for the “tone deaf” statement ⁠— following in the footsteps of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack and Activision president Rob Kostich.

Blizzard employees signed an open letter calling the company’s initial response tone deaf.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf,” he said in a July 27 company-wide letter.

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“It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”

Kotick promised the company would make five changes effectively immediately, including providing more employee support when filing harassment claims and removing inappropriate in-game content

“We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.”

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Exact examples of in-game content being removed were not given by Blizzard, but it is understood some NPCs from games like World of Warcraft have either been renamed or removed entirely.

Activision Blizzard lawsuit sexual harassment californiaActivision Blizzard
The DFEH report alleged that Activision Blizzard harbored a work place that “was akin to working in a frat house.”

Activision Blizzard opens third-party investigation

Kotick also announced that a third-party investigation would examine Activision Blizzard’s current policies and procedures “to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace”.

The review will be conducted by law firm WilmerHale and led by Stephanie Avakian, a former SEC director in the Division of Enforcement.

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“You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world,” Kotick said to round out his letter.

Activision Blizzard’s employees will be staging a walkout on July 28, with at least one-third of the company expected to take part after signing an open letter demanding better conditions for workers.

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