Episode 447: Activision Blizzard’s Buyout is Morally Upsetting

Hiya!

If there was any doubt Microsoft was serious about the video game industry, well, all of your doubts were probably shattered as they went out and paid a whopping $68.7 billion for Activision Blizzard. This is the biggest buyout in video games history, making Take Two’s acquisition of mobile game maker Zynga for $12.7 billion just a week prior look like chump change!

This is an unprecedented deal as this means Microsoft now has the entire Activision Blizzard library of games and IPs under their roof. This includes such properties like Overwatch, Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo and Crash Bandicoot, to name a few. Oh, they also now own this little known team based first person shooter. I think it’s called something like Call of Duty. I’m not sure if you heard about it but I hear it’s trying to carve out its own niche.

This is really great for Microsoft as they can instantly bolster their library of games for their Xbox video game console as well as the games you can get with Xbox Game Pass, their subscription service. They can even freeze out their competition by making all future Activision Blizzard projects exclusive to the Xbox brand. It’s a little disheartening for me as I’ve been a Sony loyalist for so long so the potential of Microsoft hoarding a good number of games has me become somewhat despondent. However, I do understand the video game industry is a business so I can say it’s a potentially gamechanger for Microsoft.

Activision Blizzard’s purchase, however, makes me mad for a totally different reason. I’m okay with the purchase. It’s the timing of the purchase and the idea of Activision Blizzard’s upper echelon of managers getting a fat paycheck after all the damage they’ve done to the people who work for them. That includes Activision Blizzard’s current CEO, Bobby Kotick.

To get a clearer picture of why I am disgusted of Activision Blizzard’s decision to sell, we do have to talk about the claims regarding how the company has been treating its rank and file employees. In the middle of 2021, a lawsuit was filed against Activision Blizzard alleging the company has been nurturing a “frat boy” culture wherein the women and other minorities were being harassed by numerous individuals, usually by management. It’s also been stated how women are paid less than men, have been passed over for promotions and only around 20% of women have gotten managerial positions within Activision Blizzard. There’s a lot more horrid stuff included in the lawsuit, including a claim of how one employee was abused so much it contributed to her decision to take her own life. While it didn’t take a soothsayer of a fortune teller for Activision Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, to say the lawsuit has no basis, slowly but surely, more claims of impropriety started to crawl out of the woodwork.

Now, let’s also talk about Bobby Kotick for a while. I’m not against a man who wants to make a lot of money. That, after all, is the dream a lot of people are chasing. I know more than just a couple of people who would love being appointed the head of a multi-billion dollar company so they can live the high life. However, what I am against is how Bobby Kotick routinely gets millions in bonuses while also claiming the company needs to lay people off. It doesn’t really make sense, does it? Giving a ton of money to one person when you can use maybe around half of that amount to save a bunch of jobs? Apparently, it made sense to Bobby Kotick and Activision Blizzard.

Well, you could say something like “should Bobby Kotick have refused the bonus?” or something like that. To me, the answer is yes. He should have refused the bonus and in order to save jobs!

I mean, it’s not like a video game CEO hasn’t done that before. In fact, before his passing, former Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata cut his own salary in half because of the financial struggles the company was feeling after the flop that was the Wii U! Nintendo could have fired people to offset the losses but Satoru Iwata and the majority of Nintendo’s upper management reduced their salaries so they could have most of their employees keep their jobs! Remember: this was during a time when Nintendo was in the red! Activision Blizzard did the opposite and, even when they were still raking in money, they still decided to get rid of hundreds of employees while CEO Bobby Kotick got more money than he knows how to spend in that year.

So, yeah. Bobby Kotick was already kind of scummy before all of the Activision Blizzard hullabaloo, which is why it’s not surprising when new allegations of how Bobby Kotick not only knew about all the harassing going on but was a part of it as well!

When all of these allegations started to bubble up and Activision Blizzard called the lawsuit meritless, Bobby Kotick said the company’s response was “tone deaf” and he was going to look into these allegations personally, even taking a pay cut until it’s all resolved. Big words, especially when most of your actual compensation comes from bonuses. However, it turns out it was Bobby Kotick himself who wrote the letter stating the lawsuit was meritless in the first place; he was the one who wrote the “tone deaf” response! It was also reported he has more than a few skeletons in his closet, such as telling a flight attendant he was going to “destroy” her when she filed a lawsuit against him and his company.

This brings us to today. I bet the lawsuit and all the internal problems with Bobby Kotick and within Activision Blizzard has really hurt their stock numbers, leaving them vulnerable to a buyout, which did happen. Microsoft and Activision Blizzard may have been in talks for months or even years now but there was no impetus to sell until the lawsuit and all the allegations started flying. While it’s been reported Bobby Kotick still wants to stay as head of Activision Blizzard after the Microsoft purchase is finalized, it’s been strongly hinted he’ll be forced to leave.

Normally, that should be a good thing. Microsoft has the chance to clean up Activision Blizzard and get rid of people like Bobby Kotick. However, there is a twist in the story I feel some are not focusing on. While it may be true Bobby Kotick will be kicked out of Activision Blizzard when the deal is finalized, he’ll probably get a big, fat severance package out of all of it. He’s still part of the team facilitating the buyout so you just know he’ll cut out a hefty slice of that when all is said and done. That’s what’s upsetting.

So, basically, Bobby Kotick, who Activision Blizzard and everyone else wants to kick out, will go… but will get a big chunk of money as a reward for leaving a company in shambles as its reputation has been tarnished under its leadership and will need to rebuild in the eyes of consumers. Does that seem right to you? Does it seem right he’ll probably make out like a bandit after knowingly doing all these scummy things while acting as CEO?

Let me answer that: No.

What’s your take on the Activison Blizzard sale? What should be Bobby Kotick’s “reward” for the sale? Let me know in the comments section below.

One thought on “Episode 447: Activision Blizzard’s Buyout is Morally Upsetting

  1. Those are indeed serious allegations against Activision under Kotick. That being said, let’s see how the prosecution will be able to PROVE them beyond reasonable doubt. Emotions over the case and geek-related obsession do not count as evidence that the jury needs to make the decision. Let the justice system do its work and decide. As for Kotick himself, his many other corporate works within the corporation should be taken into account regardless of controversy and emotions from the public. His compensation should not just be taken away so easily.

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