The big picture: It’s been a rough ride for Activision Blizzard over the last few years. Fans and employees have endured everything from death threats against workers to legal actions related to reported workplace misconduct. Microsoft’s recent acquisition is a potential turning point in restoring the company’s tarnished reputation.
On Friday, CEO Bobby Kotick’s 33-year tenure at Activision officially ended. Kotick’s much-anticipated retirement followed a formal announcement from Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer earlier this month.
Shortly after his departure, social media sparked to life with stories of Kotick’s interference in the development cycles of popular Activision Blizzard titles. The claims align with previous criticisms of Modern Warfare III’s shortened development time and use of recycled “nostalgic” content in place of typical development cycles.
i worked on COD for two years as a programmer at demonware
bobby’s decisions made our games worse
– christina æ»ç¥Â (@chhopsky) December 29, 2023
Team members from other Activision titles also voiced their experiences while attempting to develop quality products under Kotick’s watch. According to a post from Overwatch 2 team member Andy Belford, the CEO ignored warnings about the game’s unready state and potential reception before the game’s release. Appropriate measures during the development and release cycles could have positively impacted the game’s otherwise cold reception.
Breaking my silence to share a fun fact: when we planned OW2’s steam launch, my team warned (months in advance) that we’re going to be review bombed. We begged for more information, more details, and more resources to help us with the anticipated influx, all flatly denied.
– Andy Belford (he/him) ï¿½’ï¿½ (@andybelford) December 29, 2023
Activision’s partners and employees aren’t the only ones celebrating Kotick’s departure. Gamers worldwide have also expressed their relief following Kotick’s retirement. One Chinese X user noted that gamers in his country hate Kotick and blame him for Blizzard taking its games offline in China. He claims that groups of people celebrated Kotick’s resignation with fireworks in the streets.
The claims of interference and the blatant dislike of Kotick as a leader aren’t the first blemishes on his less-than-stellar record. Following claims of a voicemail threatening to kill an assistant in 2006, Kotick was the subject of a flight attendant’s sexual harassment lawsuit in 2007. He later found himself at the center of several alleged incidents involving rape and harassment stretching from the mid-2010s through 2021. Earlier this year, Kotick and Activision paid a $35 million settlement after failing to maintain adequate controls to report and address misconduct within the company.
Kotick leaves Activision with more than 30 years at the helm. Unfortunately, he unavoidably marred his legacy with poor decision-making. Major titles such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Diablo have all made their mark on the gaming world under his watch, but his name likely won’t be positively attributed to any of them.