Bobby Kotick blames employees for Activision Blizzard woes

Activision Blizzard walkout
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With the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, it looks like CEO Bobby Kotick can hold his head high again, knowing that he can leave without actually having to answer calls to resign from shareholders and employees while also regaining lost value in his stock wealth. He’s giving interviews again and in an interview with GamesBeat, Kotick has a very specific take on recent events.

Kotick tells GamesBeat that Activision Blizzard’s stock slump – which opened it up to acquisition – was brought about by the delay of games like Overwatch 2 and Diablo and not the negative perception brought about by lawsuits and scandal. Asked about “the sexual harassment investigation factor,” Kotick deflected to those two Blizzard franchises, as well as Call of Duty.

“I think what affected the stock price more than that is pushing out Overwatch and Diablo. And then I think people started to see that this year’s Call of Duty wasn’t performing as well,” answered Kotick. “So I think certainly the [California Department of Fair Employment and Housing] filing and the Wall Street Journal article contributed to that, but stocks go up and down for a variety of reasons.”

Activision Blizzard employees

There’s no denying that delayed releases as well as underperforming franchises play a part in the overall valuation of Activision Blizzard, but to listen to Kotick tell it they had more to do with the hit to investor confidence than the aforementioned lawsuits and the ongoing loss of talent at its various studios. In effect, Kotick is saying it’s the employees who make games that hurt Activision Blizzard and little else.

It’s an exasperating and confounding take to anyone who has been paying attention to the mega-publisher over the past year. It’s clear that delays to Overwatch 2 and Diablo have more to do with the chaos and turmoil within Blizzard than creative failures among its teams. Dozens of employees have left and many managers and executives have been fired.

You just have to go back and do a little reading to see that the various plummets to Activision Blizzard stock occurred exactly when the lawsuits broke out and damaging articles were published, and not when delays were confirmed at Blizzard or reports of lackluster sales of Call of Duty were reported. It’s absolute dishonesty on Kotick’s part, but it’s a lie he can make now that his safety is guaranteed.

It’s a reminder that the worst thing about the acquisition of Activision Blizzard is that Microsoft effectively made a devil’s bargain. In exchange for increased penetration into the PC space through Blizzard, access to mobile expertise through King, a massive portfolio of IP and more, they’ve gotten Kotick off the hook for literally all the terrible stuff that happened under his 30 year leadership.

The most generous, and I do mean generous, way to look at this is as a Pyrrhic victory where Kotick will finally make his exit, hopefully from the videogame industry entirely. I’m cautiously optimistic at Microsoft’s ability to clean house, or at the very least don’t doubt Phil Spencer’s sincerity, but at the end of the day they’ve still absolved Kotick of accountability.

Bobby Kotick won’t be leaving Activision Blizzard until 2023, and for the time being answers to Spencer, but when he does he’ll walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars all while he continues to act like a mean-spirited forum gamer, blaming “lazy devs” for all his troubles.