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Activision Blizzard CEO takes pay cut, announces new workplace changes as lawsuit continues

Activision Blizzard CEO has announced five changes to the company’s policies as lawsuit controversy continues.

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Activision Blizzard has published a new letter from CEO Bobby Kotick on October 28 outlining changes the company is making in regards to the workplace environment of the company, including reducing his own pay while the initiatives are enacted.

In the letter published, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick outlined 5 changes the company is making as they continue to solve the workplace harassment claims, as well as providing an update on what is happening at the executive level.

Bobby Kotick apologized to the employees for the lack of action and for not providing a safe workplace for the team. He also thanked the employees for continuing their dedication to the players and working hard on delivering new content and more to communities.

Kotick outlined 5 changes the company is making to better position the business as “the best place to work” going forward. Months after the initial lawsuit dropped, the company’s executives are finally agreeing to one of the employee group’s demands: removal of forced arbitration.

The changes also include increasing the number of women and non-binary individuals employed at the company by 50% over the next five years.


Here’s the 5 changes Kotick announced in his email:

  1. We are launching a new zero-tolerance harassment policy company-wide – In the past, when we discovered and substantiated harassment, we terminated some employees and provided verbal or written warnings or different disciplinary actions to others. In retrospect, to achieve our goals for workplace excellence, this approach is no longer adequate. We need tougher rules and consistent monitoring across the entire company to make sure reports are being handled correctly and discipline is appropriate and swift. As a result, we are implementing a zero-tolerance policy across Activision Blizzard that will be applied consistently. Our goal is to have the strictest harassment and non-retaliation policies of any employer, and we will continue to examine and tighten our standards to achieve this goal everywhere we do business.

    Any Activision Blizzard employee found through our new investigative processes and resources to have retaliated against anyone for making a compliance complaint will be terminated immediately.

    In many other instances of workplace misconduct, we will no longer rely on written warnings: termination will be the outcome, including in most cases of harassment based on any legally protected category.

    Future employment contracts and equity awards will be clear: termination for these reasons will result in the immediate forfeiture of future compensation.

    We also want to ensure that employees who file reports are encouraged, protected, and heard. For all reports of harassment and retaliation, we will investigate the allegation and whether the Activision Blizzard personnel who received the report of such behavior took the appropriate steps to protect the integrity of our compliance processes.

    There may be some places around the world where local law may restrict some of these measures. In those cases, we will apply the highest permissible standards and the strongest possible discipline.
  2. We will increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in our workforce by 50% and will invest $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent –Today, approximately 23% of our global employee population identifies as women or non-binary. Building on the success that King and other business units have achieved, we will seek to increase our percentage of women and non-binary professionals by approximately 50% – to more than one-third across the entire company – within the next five years and hopefully faster. Each franchise team, business unit, and functional area will be expected to have plans to help fulfill this ambition.

    With respect to diversity, while we perform better than our peers with 30% of our U.S. workforce from diverse or under-represented communities, broadening this progress will continue to be a significant focus of mine as well as company, business unit, and franchise leadership.

    To further this commitment, we’ll be investing an additional $250 million over the next 10 years in initiatives that foster expanded opportunities in gaming and technology for under-represented communities. This commitment includes inspiring diverse talent to pursue career opportunities in gaming through an ABK Academy that includes partnerships with colleges and technical schools serving under-represented communities, mentorships for participants, and a rotating apprenticeship program that leads to game development jobs, similar to the programs we began with the United Negro College Fund and Management Leadership for Tomorrow. We will also provide learning, development, and advanced degree opportunities for current employees to increase the number of women and those from under-represented communities in leadership positions across the company and in our industry.

    In the coming months, Brian Bulatao, Julie Hodges, and I will share details about how we are operationalizing these goals and implementing and measuring this expanded investment.
  3. Based on feedback from employees, we are waiving required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims – For any Activision Blizzard employee who chooses not to arbitrate an individual claim of sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination, or related retaliation arising in the future, the company will waive any obligation to do so.
  4. We will continue to increase visibility on pay equity – As described in the recent note from our President, Daniel Alegre, and our Chief Administrative Officer, Brian Bulatao, the company continues to focus on pay equity for employees. In fact, our U.S. analysis showed that women at the company on average earned slightly more than men for comparable work in 2020. To ensure transparency on our continuing commitment to pay equity, we will report these results annually.
  5. We will provide regular progress updates – We will be monitoring the progress of our business units, franchise teams, and functional leaders with respect to workplace initiatives and we will provide a status report quarterly. We also will be adding a dedicated focus on this vital work in our annual report to shareholders and in our annual ESG report with information on gender hiring, diversity hiring, and workplace progress.

Even more surprisingly, Kotick also has requested the board of directors of the company reduce his pay to California’s minimum wage of $62,500/yearly until the company meets the standards of fixing its workplace situation.

Kotick says, “I have asked our Board of Directors to reduce my total compensation until the Board has determined that we have achieved the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described above. Specifically, I have asked the Board to reduce my pay to the lowest amount California law will allow for people earning a salary, which this year is $62,500. To be clear, this is a reduction in my overall compensation, not just my salary. I am asking not to receive any bonuses or be granted any equity during this time.

Kotick was expected to receive a $200 million bonus at the end of this year thanks to the pay package that was approved in his name. This would be on top of his normal yearly salary. Kotick remains one of the highest-paid CEOs with over $36 million in salary, excluding the additional pay he gets in stock options, with shareholders in the past questioning why he gets paid so much.

He ended his letter apologizing to anyone at the company who was been hurt – or directly experienced harassment – while working for the company and promises to make additional changes.

“I truly wish not a single employee had had an experience at work that resulted in hurt, humiliation, or worse – and to those who were affected, I sincerely apologize. You have my commitment that we will do everything possible to honor our values and create the workplace every member of this team deserves.

I am grateful for how much people care about this company, and I appreciate that many past and present employees have reached out with their thoughts, concerns, complaints, and suggestions. Your experiences, so courageously shared, serve as reason and reminder for why it is so important for us to do better. And we will.”

This announcement comes just a week before the company’s biggest release with Call of Duty: Vanguard on November 5.

The company is also hosting a Q3 Investor Call on November 2, where more information on this situation and the reasoning behind some of the decisions will come to light.

We’ll keep everyone updated as more information is shared.

Source: Activision Blizzard

Activision

CoD publisher Activision Blizzard announce all US QA Testers will become full-time employees

Following backlash and developers walkouts, Activision Blizzard have announced that all US QA staff will become full-time employees.

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Activision Blizzard were set to lay off members of Warzone developer Raven Software’s Quality Assurance team, and developers walked out in protest. Now, Activision Blizzard have confirmed that all US QA Testers across the whole company will become full-time employees with better pay and full benefits.

Back in December 2021, Warzone developers Raven Software received news from Activision Blizzard that there would be significant layoffs, particularly in the Quality Assurance department. This surprise announcement received severe backlash, and the QA Testers staged a walkout in protest, days before Warzone’s major Pacific update.

After months of protests and unionizing, Activision Blizzard informed its staff on April 7, 2022, that all of its 1,100 QA testers will receive a full-time contract, an hourly wage increase, and access to full benefits.

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An Activision Blizzard spokesperson announced that they will convert “all US-based temporary and contingent QA team members at Activision Publishing (AP) and Blizzard – nearly 1,100 people in total – to permanent full-time employees starting July 1.”

“Additionally, we are increasing the minimum hourly rate for these team members to $20/hr or more effective April 17,” they continued. “These employees also will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus plan and will have access to full company benefits.”

They explained that this decision follows the process of “converting temporary and contingent employees, including 500 at AP’s studios, to permanent full-time employees,” which began last year.

In an internal email, Activision Chief Operating Officer Josh Taub explained how their business model has changed to an “always on,” approach, which means they are “further refining how our development teams work together.”

“QA is, and continues to be, critical to our development success. We have amazing QA teams in place that work hard to ensure our players have the best possible gaming experiences – thank you!” he said.

Mike Ybarra, Head of Blizzard, relayed the same message to all of Blizzard’s staff, explaining the remaining US-based QA Testers will be made full-time employees, receive the pay rise, and gain access to increased benefits.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

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Activision’s Beenox studio expands to Montreal as Warzone Mobile development ramps up

Activision’s Beenox studio is opening a new location in Montreal as they continue to support the development of Call of Duty titles.

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Beenox studio have aided in the development of Call of Duty mobile projects as well as Warzone content. On March 29, the company announced plans to open a new location in Montreal.

Beenox studio have supported the content releases for several seasons of Call of Duty Warzone in addition to developing new CoD Mobile experiences. It seems they will also be working on Warzone Mobile and as this significant project continues to move forward, Beenox will be supporting from their new office in Montreal, Canada.

Beenox currently operates out of Quebec City, but this expansion to Montreal is the next step in the studio’s continued growth. At this time, Beenox employs over 400 game development professionals and will likely look to add more as their expansion proceeds.

Beenox Building Quebec City

Beenox was established in 2000 and has since been operating out of Quebec City. The company is owned by Activision and as such the two forces collaborate on exciting new Call of Duty projects.

The addition of a Montreal office will be a smooth one for Beenox as they already employ around 50 team members from the city. However, if you have hopes of joining their impressive team of game developers, Beenox have confirmed that they are looking to hire new members as well:

“The team is currently hiring for roles in programming, design and art departments, as well as for the mobile team.” Luckily, candidates aren’t restricted to Montreal inhabitants, “We want our location to attract local and international talent and contribute to the vibrant video game industry in Montreal” said Nour Polloni, Studio Head at Beenox.

Montreal seems like a perfect fit for the studio as the city is known for housing renowned gaming industry giants like Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Bethesda Montreal. Beenox will fit right in with the vibrant game development community in Montreal.

Although the blog post announcing the expansion, does not specifically mention Warzone Mobile, it’s likely that a major focus will shift toward the development of the upcoming game.

Despite being announced on March 10, Warzone Mobile is still very much shrouded in mystery but fans of the franchise are certainly hoping for a late 2022 release date.


For more Call of Duty news, check out how Warzone Mobile leaks hint at a Verdansk return with a twist.

Image Credit: Activision / Beenox

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Will Call of Duty stay on PlayStation after Microsoft’s Activision buyout?

PlayStation fans may have some questions regarding the new Xbox acquisition, including whether Call of Duty will be on the platform.

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After the huge news about Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision, PlayStation players are wondering what will happen with future Call of Duty releases.

Since the news broke about Microsoft’s purchase of Activision, the gaming community has gone crazy worldwide. The deal is arguably the biggest acquisition in gaming history and was even worth more than Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise (Lucasfilm).

The deal has a lot of question marks surrounding it at the moment, but for those PlayStation users who are confused as to what it means for Call of Duty on the platform, here’s all the information you need.

Activision blizzard logo

The deal involves games under Activision and Activision Blizzard, which subsequently means Xbox will own Call of Duty.

This took the community by surprise when it was announced and naturally, a lot of people had questions.

For example, Call of Duty have had a close relationship with PlayStation for some years now, giving them exclusive/early access to content, so what will happen after the deal goes through?

Will Call of Duty still be on PlayStation?

Xbox’s Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft gaming, confirmed in a statement over on Twitter that Call of Duty will remain on PlayStation following the acquisition. Further, the Xbox CEO also confirmed that they would honor all existing agreements that Sony has with Call of Duty.

On February 9 a Microsoft blog post reaffirmed their commitment to providing PlayStation owners with new Call of Duty titles in the years to come. Microsoft confirmed that they have no intention to undermine opportunities for PlayStation users with Xbox exclusive CoD titles.

Microsoft stated that they will continue to develop Call of Duty games for all platforms beyond the existing agreements in place, “we have committed to Sony that we will also make them available on PlayStation beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love.”

call of duty modern warfare

For now, the companies will remain independent from each other until 2023.

This means that Call of Duty 2022 will likely retain a lot of the PlayStation exclusivity deals that have been around and PS players won’t have to worry about losing content to Xbox, at least not until these commitments and deals expire.

Once the deal closes and the commitment to existing contracts and agreements like PlayStation’s exclusive Call of Duty content expires, it’s unclear what will happen in terms of exclusive content. However, it is clear that Call of Duty will still be released on PlayStation.

According to Tom Warren, Xbox’s dealings with Bethesda when they purchased the company could be telling of what they will do with Activision. We will likely know much more about exclusivity for other games once the deal has closed, but we could be seeing a lot of Activision games going exclusive.

It wouldn’t have been wise for Microsoft to pull Call of Duty games from PlayStation, as the franchise remains the best-selling game on PlayStation platforms in the U.S. and has been for years, with Vanguard recently topping the charts for 2021.

What can be said, however, is that exclusivity deals may shift from PlayStation to Xbox after the deal is closed. Call of Duty games may even be seen on the Xbox Game Pass on release, but this is all still just speculation.


So, there you have it, Call of Duty will remain on PlayStation platforms but the exclusive content may shift over to Xbox and PC. For more, check out every Warzone weapon ranked.

Image Credits: PlayStation / Xbox / Microsoft / Activision / Retail Tracking Service / The NDP Group

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