The fallout on Activision Blizzard over the initial revelations of workplace harassment at the company continues as the company is now facing new legal challenges from U.S government agencies.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has issued a report stating that the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Committee, opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard recently over the workplace harassment and pay inequality issues.
The SEC has also subpoenaed Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to appear in court, along with several other Activision Blizzard senior executives. Specific names beyond Kotick were not shared.
The SEC is investigating whether Activision Blizzard’s failure to provide proper information in regards to the harassment and inequality situation prior to it becoming public via the California state lawsuit on July 21, 2021 caused investors to lose money over a drop in the company’s stock prices.
The WSJ states that, per documents and files they’ve reviewed, the SEC is asking for information dating back to 2019.
The agency is specifically inquiring about the communications of senior executives over the harassment and diversity situation and what decisions were made at that time.
Activision Blizzard’s Chief Communications Officer, Helaine Klasky, confirmed to WSJ that the SEC is investigating the company and confirmed they are cooperating with the SEC.
In addition to the SEC, the WSJ reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been investigating Activision Blizzard separately since May 2020 over workplace misconduct and discrimination.
Per reports, Activision Blizzard and the agency are in talks over a settlement agreement which would see the company pay millions of dollars in fines.
Activision Blizzard has been under fire since the California DEFH lawsuit came to light on July 21, 2021.
Employees of the company formed a group, known as A Better ABK, to list their demands and how they want to proceed forward with the company, following a company wide walkout in July. So far, the company’s executives have not met their demands.
Activision Blizzard provides update
Since these new investigations have come to light, Activision Blizzard has issued a statement revealing some progress that the company claims to have made over the last two months.
Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said, “We are deeply committed to making Activision Blizzard one of the best, most inclusive places to work anywhere. There is absolutely no place anywhere in our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind. While we continue to work in good faith with regulators to address and resolve past workplace issues, we also continue to move ahead with our own initiatives to ensure that we are the very best place to work. We remain committed to addressing all workplace issues in a forthright and prompt manner.”
Activision Blizzard confirmed investigations are underway by the SEC and the EEOC, which were reported by the WSJ. The company says that they are “cooperating” with the investigations.
Kotick also said that the Company continues to productively engage with regulators, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) with the goal of improving its workplace policies and procedures and ensuring compliance.
The Company is actively engaged in continued discussions with the EEOC and has cooperated with the EEOC’s investigation concerning certain employment practices. It also confirmed that it is complying with a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) subpoena issued to the Company and several current and former employees and executives regarding disclosures on employment matters and related issues. The Company is confident in its prior disclosures and is cooperating with the SEC’s investigation.
In addition, Activision Blizzard states that they have made several changes to the company and the company’s culture. They state that there have been many exits from the company and have “refreshed” their HR team.
Activision Blizzard recently announced the hiring of Julie Hodges as their new Chief People Officer, who will be responsible for HR. Hodges begins her role on Sept. 21. She replaces the current head of HR, who has left the company.
Activision Blizzard has made a number of important improvements including significant changes to personnel, exiting a number of employees, and expanding compliance resources. In addition, the Company has refreshed its HR organization and, this week, will welcome a new Chief People Officer, Julie Hodges, who joins the Company from The Walt Disney Company. The Company has also expanded training, performance management, and anti-harassment resources.
We’ll continue to provide updates on the situation with Activision Blizzard.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.”
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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