Mom, I Can’t Pause #11: Bobby Kotick Is Unfit and Needs To Go.
I’m pretty sick of talking about Activision Blizzard. I really do prefer to talk about more fun things in gaming, but this week won’t allow me to do that. Fair enough. Let’s get into it.
Once Again: Bobby Kotick’s Gotta Go
I find myself somewhat flummoxed at all of the Activision Blizzard news that has come out during the week. Everything I’ve learned about the company has either made my stomach churn or made my head spin in one way or another. All of it lies at the feet of their CEO (but maybe not for long), Bobby Kotick.
If you haven’t heard, a Wall Street Journal report came out this week alleging that Bobby Kotick knew more about the numerous allegations at Activision Blizzard than he let on. The article illustrates Kotick as a man who knowingly let abusers off the hook for their actions, and defended them without a second thought. Continuing the read, it is alleged that Kotick himself has been involved in some less than desirable actions himself. WSJ writes that Kotick is accused of threatening to kill an assistant of his who alleged that he harassed her, and firing a flight attendant who worked on the plane that he co-owned after she alleged that the pilot of the plane sexually harassed her.
I could continue to recap the article, but I recommend reading it for yourself here. The entire thing is filled with such detail and extraordinary reporting that my recap wouldn’t do it justice. I especially find the parts about Jen Oneal and her lack of confidence in Activision Blizzard staggering, as she said “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.”
Regardless, Activision Blizzard had to respond to this, and they responded in probably the worst way via a statement:
“We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their — and our — values. The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart. Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”
Furthermore, the Activision Blizzard Board of Directors put out a press release of their own, acknowledging the report while maintaining confidence in Bobby Kotick and standing behind him as the leader of Activision Blizzard:
“The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry. Under Bobby Kotick’s leadership the Company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.
The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”
I don’t see a way out of this for Activision Blizzard except for removing Bobby Kotick as their CEO. There is no way to spin these news stories in a positive manner. There is no game release on the horizon to distract people from this news. All we have are the facts and the inaction by the ActiBlizz Board of Directors. Pressure continues to mount for the company to act, especially with both heads of PlayStation and Xbox coming out to slam the company on these matters. Shareholders, employees, and the general public are also upset about these allegations. There are no two ways about it: Bobby Kotick must resign. I’m not saying anything new or revolutionary here, but it still must be said.
Even with a resignation though, Activision Blizzard has so much work to do. The company does not get to wash its hands of Kotick if he is to resign. We cannot act as if the evil has been defeated with the resignation/firing of Kotick, as the Board of Directors still will remain on the board. Let’s be clear here: they most likely knew about these allegations, too. The board did nothing to prevent these issues and likely helped cover them up. So, y’know, fuck them too.
These allegations against members of ActiBlizz’s membership/CEO have had me thinking about the call to boycott their games over the last few days. Both sides of the issue make incredibly salient points about whether or not to purchase their games, or cover their games on a gaming website. Personally, I couldn’t even pretend to boycott ActiBlizz games. In all actuality, I don’t really buy their games often enough to warrant a boycott. I can count on one hand the times I’ve consciously bought ActiBlizz games in the last five years, so for me to encourage a boycott would personally feel wrong.
At the same time, I totally understand why someone would personally boycott their games. A lot of people I know genuinely love some of their products, but hate what is happening to the developers at the company. It’s increasingly clear that the people who make these games suffer under terrible, no-good leadership that has nothing but contempt for them. To boycott in their favor is both fair and just, as they deserve much more than they’re working with. We should also try to listen to what the workers want, as a boycott may not be what they’re recommending. The developers at ActiBlizz are not a monolith, and should not be treated as such.
But, if there is one thing that they are seemingly united on, it’s what I and many other more prominent sites are saying: Bobby Kotick has to go.
Rockstar Games Messed Up, But Leave The Devs Alone
Rockstar Games sure is sorry about the state of the release of the excessively titled Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy — The Definitive Edition. If you’ve been online in the past two weeks, you may have seen an array of glitches in each of the titles included in the package. I couldn’t list all the glitches, even if I wanted to, so I’ll just link to this video which will display some of the most prominent ones. Suffice to say: this shit is a mess and is incredibly frustrating to see. I personally haven’t purchased the package, but I have gotten my hands on the San Andreas portion thanks to Xbox Cloud Gaming. I haven’t played much of it, but I can see the glitches and somewhat subpar presentation, and it is absolutely putting a damper on my enjoyment of it.
This has been extremely frustrating to see. Like many others, I’m sure these games are important to a lot of people. Even if I shouldn’t have been playing those games growing up, I still did and have a lot of good memories of them as a result. So to see these games in such a poor state, from a company that once claimed to prioritize quality, is just extremely disappointing. Furthermore, Rockstar chose to delist the original games from digital storefronts, angering a lot of fans in the process. Many fans have made this point extremely clear, to the point where Rockstar Games has put out a statement in regards to the trilogy package.
In their statement, Rockstar pledged to improve the collection via updates and to relist the original trilogy on PC via their Rockstar Games launcher. They’re also going to give away copies of the original trilogy for those who purchased the Definitive Edition at no cost for a limited time. These are net positives and I think Rockstar is taking the right steps to right this wrong. However, I can’t help but be further frustrated as to how all of this was handled.
When you see the game released in its current state, you have to wonder: how did this happen? How could such a large release come out in such a subpar state? We ask this every single time a game comes out in an unacceptable state. A lot of people typically shift their blame towards the developers, which I can follow if I approach it with a certain mindset: “the developers worked on this game, therefore the failure of this game lies on the developers being lazy.” I’m here to tell you that this mindset is bullshit and toxic. Rockstar Games themselves have asked fans to stop harassing their developers on social media. Do you realize how insane that is? How embarrassing it is to request fans to cut the toxic bullshit out?
Game developers care about the games they work on more than you do. No matter how you feel about a game on release, please believe that a developer may feel the exact same way about it. Think about it like this: you’re working on a project that you’re putting a lot of effort in. Blood, sweat, and tears level of work. If you’re presenting it to someone, and they’re happy with it, you’re going to feel a sense of relief and pride. If they don’t love it, you’re going to feel some sort of negative feeling about the project/yourself. Now, take that feeling and imagine if instead of disappointing one person, you’re disappointing thousands who you’ve never met. People who are telling you that you don’t work hard enough for their enjoyment. After a while, that’s going to sting.
Plus, these failures are not at the feet of the developers. Game development is, for lack of a better term, a trickle-down affair. Much like all work, if a manager is poorly leading a team, the team will suffer as a result. Work will suffer as a result. This extends to all aspects of game development, too. A lack of a vision could kill a game before it even enters full production, and a lack of a plan can and will deliver a subpar product. Failures like this are well out of a programmer or artist’s hands. We as gamers should recognize that these things happen, though. Game development is an intricate and complicated process, and we should all do our best to understand that.
Don’t Look Now, But Xbox Is In The Driver’s Seat
Get it? Because of Forza? Anyone? No? Okay.
Seriously though: Xbox’s games publishing is really starting to flourish. This past week has been dominated by the surprise early release of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer portion. I am happy to report that the multiplayer absolutely whips ass. It’s a fun throwback to the Halo of old while updating its gameplay to coexist among other, modern first-person shooters. However, I and many others have issues with their progression system/battle pass, but they’re working on it. If you’d like to read a strong, more in-depth review of the multiplayer, I recommend reading Polygon’s write-up here. While 343 Studios has a strong multiplayer foundation to work with, time will tell as to whether or not the Halo Infinite campaign lives up to fans' expectations. If previews from this past week are any indication, we may be in for something very fun.
While Halo has been in the news for its release we can’t forget about Forza Horizon 5, which was released a week prior to rave reviews. In playing more of the game, I can’t help but think about it when I’m not playing it. I’ve never been a big racing games kind of guy, but I find it so easy to pick up and play. A racing game that is easy to play for casuals, and deep enough for true racing enthusiasts to really get in there and create their perfect car. Xbox and Playground Games should be proud of themselves for this one.
I’m admittedly not much of a numbers guy when it comes to games, but the numbers for both Halo and Forza should be a strong indicator of success. Forza Horizon 5 has reportedly had 10 million players since its launch. Halo Infinite had 200,000+ concurrent players on Steam on its first day and has maintained a large number of players since its first day. This isn’t even counting players using the Xbox Game Pass platform, so I think we can call Halo’s early release successful in that aspect.
These successful releases point me towards a larger picture. Xbox’s Game Publishing division is poised for much success in both the near and somewhat distant future. As you may have noticed, Xbox has been acquiring studios left and right, and those studios will be releasing games eventually. We have an extreme example of their studios releasing tentpole titles right now, and I suspect there will be more large releases like this in the future. These releases coming to Gamepass can’t hurt much, either. I’m sure having one of the most anticipated 2022 releases as a console/PC exclusive has to be a plus, too.
Odds & Ends
- The Game Awards dropped their nominations this week. Predictably, people reacted accordingly. Personally, I don’t have strong opinions about most of the nominations, but Deathloop being up for Best Narrative certainly raises some eyebrows. I’ll be watching the show (and writing some predictions for it!), and hoping for the rightful game to win Game of the Year. Metroid Dread is the one, ladies and gentlemen!
- Multiversus was announced after being leaked time and time again over the month of October. A free-to-play fighter featuring Warner Bros. intellectual properties sounds funny on paper, but the game looks pretty good to me! I’ll be checking it out when it releases next year, and I hope that you will too. No Nintendo Switch release is an interesting choice, but when you think of the other multi-IP fighter on the platform, it makes a lot of sense. Also, WB really made the “Ultra Instinct Shaggy” meme a real thing. If memes lead to more people playing the game, sure. Why not?
- Riot Games has given us another look at “Project L,” the League of Legends based fighting game. The game is still early in development, but the reveal that it is a tag-team-based fighter is more interesting than a typical one-on-one fighter. Unfortunately, I don’t care much for League of Legends, so I’m not sure if I’ll be playing this whenever it releases. The art style is very cool though, and I appreciate the team’s insistence on making a game that is made for both casual and hardcore players alike.
- Naruto has come to Fortnite, which is troublesome for me. I’m sincerely considering playing Fortnite again and purchasing V-Bucks just so I can have the skins. Every now and then, Fortnite is going to get you. You’re going to consider playing it so you can access some cosmetics. It just is what it is. Be stronger than I am.
- The best PlayStation 2 game turned 17 this past Saturday. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is still a monumental achievement on every conceivable level. Celebrate its anniversary with me by listening to its stellar theme song here.
This week is Thanksgiving, as well as Black Friday. I hope you guys have a great holiday, and if you’re shopping for some deals, best of luck! A special best of luck to those trying to secure the consoles. It’s a pain in the ass, but finally getting one is like beating a boss: a lot harder than it should have been, but ultimately very satisfying. See you next week!