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Opinion: Why it’s time Activision brings Crowd Funding to Call of Duty eSports

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Earlier today, it was revealed that the prize pool for the 2016 Call of Duty Championship will be $1.6 million. While this is pool is higher compared to the last three Championship events, this is not close to the recent Halo World Championship or other major eSports titles.

The 2016 Halo World Championship saw a total prize pool of $2.5 million, where the first place team took home $1 million. That’s the biggest first place prize in console eSports history. The first place prize at the Halo WC was equivalent to the entire prize pool of the last three Call of Duty Championship events.

Out of Halo World Championship’s $2.5 million prize pool, only $1 million of that was funded by Microsoft. The rest $1.5 million was crowd funded through the in game REQ packs in Halo 5: Guardians [source]. In Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries has a REQ pack system (which is very similar to Supply Drops), and a percent of the proceeds from the REQ packs have been going to crowd fund the Halo World Champs. It’s incredible to think that Halo 5 players raised over $1.5 million for the prize pool from October 2015 to February 2016, and Halo 5 is available only on one platform.

For DOTA 2, there was a prize pool of $18 million for their The International 2015 event. For that event over, $16 million of the prize pool was crowd funded [source]. While DOTA 2 is on PC, and PC scene is definitely different than the console scene, it just shows the effect that involving fans directly in the action can have.

Last year, in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer Games/Activision launched a “Call of Duty Championship” Personalization Pack for players to buy, and none of the profits from that went to Champs prize pool. That pack seemed like one of the best opportunities ever to start crowd funding in Call of Duty eSports. Sledgehammer Games also added in team gear sets for Denial eSports and OpTic Gaming, but those were added into the regular supply drop rotation, and it could not have been possible to find out how much money was spent specifically on those items to increase prize pool; however, this was a big step for Call of Duty eSports as we finally saw gear sets coming in-game.

With the World League, it should be easier for Activision to get permission from teams in the league to showcase their gear directly in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Getting permissions from teams was probably a barrier for Activision before, but in Advanced Warfare, they were able to do it. All of the Call of Duty World League Pro Division teams could have their own camos, gear sets, calling cards, and more possibly added into a special “eSports Supply Drop” where a percent of the proceeds from this Supply Drop contributes to the Champs prize pool. This Supply Drop should also become available across platforms (that support the Black Market) and content all of the regular supply drop content plus the eSports gear. 
(Side note: We have seen many fans express their opinions stating that they think having eSports gear available as separate purchase would be better but that would probably become a legal issue where teams would have to negotiate a profit from those as Activision would be directly selling their branding to players. Having a chance in Supply Drops makes it that you are not directly buying a team’s content, much like how it was done in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.) 

Since Call of Duty is a multi-platform game, there are eSports fans across platforms. Halo 5’s crowd funding was only on Xbox One (as the game is a console exclusive), but still over $1.5 million was raised. There’s no saying how much Call of Duty fans could raise in this game.

The future of Call of Duty eSports truly lies in Activision’s hands this year with the World League. With crowd funding, maybe we could see Champs at an incredible prize pool. For now, we are at $1.6 million (with a total of more than $3 million across all three regions [NA/EU/ANZ] and across the Pro Division, Challenge Division, and Champs).

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Blizzard Chief Legal Officer resigns as Activision Blizzard lawsuit controversy continues

Turmoil at Activision Blizzard continues as new investigations & details surface on the harassment lawsuit.

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The turmoil over the lawsuit for Activision Blizzard continues as a high profile executive of the company has announced their departure.

Blizzard Entertainment’s Chief Legal Officer, Claire Hart, has shared on her LinkedIn that she’s left the company on Friday, September 17.

Hart said in her message on LinkedIn that “the past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honored to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses.”

She did not comment on whether her departure was related to what was happening at the company currently. Activision Blizzard also declined to comment beyond confirming her departure.

The news of her departure comes as this week the company confirmed new investigations by the SEC over the company’s handling of the lawsuit scandal.

This week, the situation heated up as Activision Blizzard is now under investigation by the SEC for potentially misleading investors over the brevity of the lawsuit and harassment that occurred at the company.

Activision Blizzard confirmed that they are cooperating with the SEC as part of their investigation into the company.

The lawsuit from California State, which surfaced in July, primarily focused on Blizzard Entertainment’s harassment and scandal issues, including sexual harassment, inequality amongst staff pay, and more issues.

Blizzard’s President of J. Allen Brack was the first executive to leave the company, resigning at the end of July. He was replaced by Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal as the new co-leaders of Blizzard Entertainment.

So far, Activision Blizzard has refused to met employee’s demands to chart a better future for the company. An employee group, A Better ABK, has been formed to provide their feedback to the executive team.

In other news in regards to Blizzard, the Executive Producer of Overwatch 2 is departing Blizzard this week.

Chacko Sonny, who was highly respected at Blizzard and seen as the person to chart Overwatch’s future following Jeff Kaplan’s departure, told staff in an email that he’s leaving, per Bloomberg. Sonny was perviously one the masterminds behind Call of Duty ELITE service back in 2011.

We’ll continue to update as the situation unfolds.

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Activision Blizzard provides update on workplace initiatives as US government opens investigation

Activision Blizzard is now being investigated by the SEC over sexual misconduct and discrimination allegations, as fallout from initial lawsuit continues.

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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.

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Activision Blizzard hires new head of HR as harassment lawsuit scandal continues

Activision Blizzard hires two new executives as fallout over the harassment lawsuit continues.

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Activision Blizzard has announced the hiring of two new senior executives as the company continues to face challenges with the harassment and diversity lawsuit.

The new executives will join later this month, with one coming from The Walt Disney Company, and other from Delta Airlines.

The first new hire is Julie Hodges, who will be joining the company as the Chief People Officer. Hodges worked at The Walt Disney Company for years.

Activision Blizzard says she will be responsible for building and reshaping the company’s corporate HR and people team.

Activision Blizzard’s press release describes her role as:

Ms. Hodges brings more than three decades of global human resources experience in entertainment and an impeccable record of shaping corporate culture. She will be responsible for the company’s global talent organization, making Activision Blizzard the destination for top talent. In her role, she will lead all aspects of human resources, including diversity, equity and inclusion, talent acquisition, employee experience, learning and development, compensation and benefits and workforce planning.

“I can’t think of a better person to join our team and help lead our ongoing commitment to an inclusive workplace,” Kotick said. “Julie is the seasoned leader we need to ensure we are the most inspiring, equitable and emulated entertainment company in the world.”

“I share the company’s belief that a work environment should welcome all perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds,” Hodges said. “A workforce where everyone feels valued is critical to the success of our business, as is a trusting, engaging and safe environment that encourages creativity and innovation and in which all employees can thrive. It takes a collective effort to do this, and I’m looking forward to ensuring that we support the diversity of our talent to bring our people together and continue creating amazing entertainment.”

Per the company’s press release, the current Chief People Officer Claudine Naughton is leaving the company. This comes as Activision Blizzard is engulfed in the harassment and diversity lawsuit scandal in the state of California.

The lawsuit, which first came to light on July 21, has shined a light on many of the incidents that took place at Activision Blizzard – from sexual harassment, in-equality, lack of diversity, and more.

The state of California recently further updated their lawsuit to claim Activision Blizzard’s HR team was shredding documents relevant to their investigation.

Ms. Hodges will start her role on September 21 in a rocky time for the company. Employees continue to demand action and change from the executives, including the removal of arbitration clauses. The employees formed a group recently, A Better ABK, to jointly file a labor suit against the company.

The company said in the press release that these new hires will “help the company build a more inclusive workplace as well as diversify and grow its revenue.”

Activision Blizzard also announced another new executive joining the company. Sandeep Dube will join the company from Delta Airlines as the new Chief Commercial Officer. Dube replaces Armin Zerza’s open role, who was promoted to Chief Financial Officer.

Activision Blizzard press release says Mr. Dube will oversee Activision’s global Sales and Go-To-Market teams. He will be responsible for developing and implementing commercial strategy and delivering on the company’s revenue growth plan.

“Sandeep is a rare leader who not only has the ability to expand our global go-to-market teams, but also bring his diverse experience from an accomplished career to unite our commercial group,” Mr. Kotick said. “Our mission is to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment. While Sandeep connected the world through air travel at Delta, he created a growth-oriented culture that was focused on the very best customer experiences. The innovations he inspired created incredible customer loyalty. We are excited to continue our work on revenue growth with an even greater focus on recognizing and rewarding our players.”

Mr. Dube said, “I couldn’t be more excited to join this team and work together to continue building our inclusive culture and to expand our audiences.”

Dube will start his role on September 27.

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