Tag Archives: Activision Blizzard

CMA Investigates Microsoft Acquisition of Activision Blizzard



The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it is investigating the anticipated acquisition by Microsoft Corporation of Activision Blizzard, Inc. The CMA stated that July 6, 2022 is the launch of the merger inquiry, and it gave notice to the parties. From the CMA:

“6 July 2022: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act of 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.”

CNBC reported that the U.K’s Competition and Market Authority said its investigation would consider whether the deal may harm competition – “for example, through higher prices, lower quality, or reduced choice.” According to CNBC, the CMA set a September 1 deadline for its initial decision.

CNBC also reported that Lisa Tanzi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and general counsel, said regulatory scrutiny of the deal was to be expected, adding the company would “fully cooperate” with the CMA.

If approved, CNBC reported, the acquisition would have huge implications for the $190 billion video game industry, handing control of incredibly lucrative franchises including Call of Duty, Candy Crush and Warcraft to one of the world’s biggest tech companies.

TechCrunch reported that the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also currently investigating the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard deal. According to TechCrunch, the FTC regulators have been known “to scupper, or add provisions, to deals, as well as nod them through.”

All of this comes as Activision Blizzard faces what seems to be an ongoing series of controversies. The company was the subject of a two-year investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which it described as having a “‘frat boy’ workplace culture” and a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”

TechCrunch pointed out that CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly knew about, yet failed to act, over sexual misconduct and rape allegations.

In short, Activision Blizzard is currently, and has been, a mess. While it is important to keep in mind that there are some wonderful, creative, people who work for that company, it is the inaction of the CEO and the Board that is allowing the controversy to continue. I honestly hope that the regulators allow the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard merger – if for no other reason than to give the employees a better work environment.


Diablo Immortal’s China Release Has Been Delayed



Diablo Immortal is the newest game in Activision Blizzard’s Diablo franchise. It was officially released on June 2 for not only mobile devices but also PCs. CNBC reported that shares of the game fell nearly 7% in Hong Kong on Monday after it announced plans to delay the release of Diablo Immortal in China. According to CNBC, the game did not announce a new launch date.

NetEase and Activision Blizzard worked together on Diablo Immortal. The game was set to release in China on June 23, but that has been delayed. The reason for the delay requires some explanation.

Financial Times reported that shares in NetEase dropped on Monday morning after the Chinese company fell foul of China’s censors over a social media post that was suspected of alluding to Winnie the Pooh, a popular way to derisively refer to President Xi Jinping.

According to The Financial Times, the delay came as a screenshot circulated online of a post published by the game’s official account on Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging site, dated May 22, that read: “Why hasn’t the bear stepped down.”

The remark was interpreted as a reference to China’s President Xi Jinping, who is often illustrated as Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. The cartoon bear has been blacklisted by censors in China for years.

This isn’t the first time that China has cracked down on gaming. In August of 2021, South China Morning Post reported that gamers in China who are under the age of 18 would have their playing time limited to one hour on regular days and two hours on public holidays. That same month, the BBC reported that Tencent announced it was rolling out facial recognition to stop children from playing video games between 10pm and 8am.

Kotaku reported that the postponement of Diablo Immortal in China comes three days before the game’s intended Chinese release and just a few days after the game’s official Weibo account was suspended from being allowed to post.

According to Kotaku, a contact translated what was written on Weibo as “What do you think about the bear?”, but says it was written to be idiomatic. Kotaku notes that either way, if real, it seems an extraordinary thing to have posted on an official account in China.

Kotaku also pointed out that there is a press release that was posted on Blizzard’s Chinese website, stating that the reason for this very last-minute delay is a need to make “a number of optimization adjustments to the game”. (Kotaku appears to have translated this via Google.) The press release also said that the adjustments included improving model rendering, support for a wider range of devices, and “network and performance optimizations”.


Microsoft Agrees to Respect Activision Blizzard Unionization



Microsoft said Monday it would respect the rights of Activision Blizzard workers to join a union, and would enter into a so-called labor neutrality agreement with major media union Communications Workers of America, which has been helping video game workers organize, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Washington Post, if Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is approved, the new labor agreement will take effect for the video game giant 60 days after the deal is finalized.

The Wall Street Journal reported that earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled a set of principles aimed at demonstrating its willingness to work with unions. The company said it wouldn’t discourage employees from using their legal right to form and join unions and wouldn’t try to complicate the process of unionization for its employees.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the principles marked Microsoft’s latest attempt to carve out a position distinct from other technology companies on a sensitive subject in the industry. U.S. tech companies have long avoided unions, and some have tried to discourage employees from joining them. Microsoft reported a global workforce of more than 180,000 last year. None are currently unionized in the U.S.

The New York Times reported: A group of nearly 30 employees at one of Activision’s studios voted to unionize through an N.L.R.B. election in May despite Activision’s opposition to holding the election. But completing such a process can be time consuming, with unions and employers sometimes spending months or even years litigating the results.

According to The New York Times, through the agreement, workers will have access to an expedited process for unionizing, overseen by a neutral third party, in which they will indicate their support for a union either by signing cards or confidentially through an electronic platform.

Chris Shelton, the president of the Communications Workers unions, said in an interview, “This process does give us and Microsoft a way to do this quote unquote election without spending the time, the effort and the controversy that goes along with an N.L.R.B. election.”

Personally, I’m happy to see that Microsoft is willing to work with unions. That’s a huge change from Activision Blizzard King, where the high-ups have been fighting against unionization. The Wisconsin workers in Raven Software were able to unionize – but not before Activision engaged in union-busting attempts. Raven contractors worked on franchises like Activision’s Call of Duty games.

It would be wonderful if the Activision Blizzard King workers, who have been struggling to get the company to accept their unionization efforts, can easily join a union after the Microsoft acquisition. If so, this would set a huge precedent for workers at other gaming companies.


Activision Blizzard Employees Walk Out Over Lifting Of Vaccine Mandate



We are, once again, at the point where some companies start pushing for people who were working from home to go back to the office. In some cases, companies will require workers to be vaccinated before coming into the workplace. Unfortunately, Activision Blizzard, a company that has several lawsuits issued against it, decided now is the time to drop their coronavirus vaccine mandate. Some employees are strongly against that decision.

Kotaku posted the full letter from Activision Blizzard Chief Administrative Officer Brian Bulatao to workers. The key paragraph is:

Everyone, As conditions improve and we prepare to welcome more of you back to our offices, I’d like to share an update regarding our vaccine policy. Effective immediately, we are lifting our vaccine mandate for all U.S. employees. This means that employees no longer need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to the office…

The Washington Post reported that in response to the company’s decision to drop their coronavirus vaccine mandate workers staged a virtual walkout in protest. This is Activision Blizzard’s fourth walkout since July of 2021.

According to The Washington Post, ahead of Monday’s walkout, the ABK Workers Alliance – which organized the company’s previous walkouts – posted a statement to Twitter calling for the company to “make working from home an equal and equitable option for all employees” and to reinstate the vaccine mandate at Activision Blizzard-owned studios that have not already done so.

The @ABetterABK Twitter account posted a short thread about the walkout: “Due to new RTO policy around no longer mandating vaccination requirements in regards to the ongoing pandemic, a group of ABK employees will be conducting a walkout on Monday April 4 at 10am PDT. We have 3 demands:”

Their demands were: An immediate reversal to lifting the vaccine requirement. Remote work should be offered as a permanent solution. The decision to work remote or in office should be made by each individual employee.

TechCrunch reported: Employees voiced concern about the plan, which would make returning to work especially unsafe for immunocompromised staff. Blizzard has almost 10,000 employees, though they are spread across a variety of global offices. But eliminating vaccine mandates and other tactics to reduce the spread of COVID-19 struck some workers as short sighted and brazen.

According to TechCrunch, Brian Bulatao walked back his message soon after the announcement of a walkout. He declared that individual studios could choose whether or not to enforce a vaccine mandate, but members of ABK Workers Alliance felt this response was unsatisfactory.


Epic and Activision Blizzard Halt Their Games in Russia



Epic Games and Activision Blizzard have joined several other gaming companies by suspending sales of their games in Russia. These decisions are in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

On March 4, 2022, on the Activision Blizzard website, President and COO Daniel Alegre posted a message in an employee letter, and then shared that letter publicly. It included the following:

…Today we are announcing that Activision Blizzard will be suspending new sales of and in our games in Russia while this conflict continues. We will continue to look at ways to support the Ukrainian people. I want to reassure you that the safety of our employees is our leadership team’s top priority. We are doing everything possible to assist employees, and their families, who are being directly affected by this tragedy. If you or a colleague needs support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your manager or local HR leaders. I’d also like to remind you that our Employee Assistance Program is available to those who need emotional support during this difficult time…

On March 5, 2022, the Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) tweeted: “Epic is stopping commerce with Russia in our games in response to its invasion of Ukraine. We’re not blocking access for the same reason other communication tools remain online: the free world should keep all lines of dialogue open.”

On March 1, 2022, Ubisoft posted news about how they are supporting their teams who are in Ukraine. From the news:

…Our top priority is to take care of the safety and wellbeing of our teams and their families. Over the past months, Ubisoft has been closely monitoring the situation, and our primary focus has been the security of our teams. As events escalated in February, Ubisoft recommended all teams to take shelter in a place they considered safe. To support them as they made these difficult decisions, each team member was provided additional funds to help cover costs and paid their salary in advance to account for any potential disruptions to banking system…

Ubisoft did not mention anything about halting their games in Russia or anywhere else.


Xbox and PlayStation are Evaluating Relationship with Activision Blizzard



Bloomberg reported that Microsoft’s head of Xbox said he’s “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments,” in light of the recent revelations at the video game publishing company.

This is in reference to an article posted by the Wall Street Journal alleging that CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, knew for years about sexual-misconduct allegations at the company he leads. The same article stated that Bobby Kotick also did not inform the board of directors about everything he knew.

IGN reported that Microsoft has confirmed the statement from Phil Spencer. That statement said “I personally have strong values for a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox. This is not a destination but a journey that we will always be on. The leadership at Xbox and Microsoft stand by our teams and support them in building a safer environment for all.”

The Verge reported that PlayStation leadership has asked Activision Blizzard how it will address the allegations that were in the Wall Street Journal article. PlayStation boss Jim Ryan reportedly informed employees of the action in an email.

According to The Verge, this is the statement that PlayStation boss Jim Ryan gave to Bloomberg: “We outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article. We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”

If both PlayStation and Xbox decide to remove Activision Blizzard’s games from their platforms, this could potentially be a big problem for the company. For example, Blizzard released Diablo II: Resurrected not only on its Battle:Net platform, but also on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, PS5 and PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

If Xbox and PlayStation decide to remove games from Activision Blizzard – it means that players who access the game through those platforms will no longer be able to play it on those platforms. If they don’t have a PC, then they won’t be able to play at all.


CEO of Activision Blizzard Ignored Sexual Misconduct for Years



The Wall Street Journal reported that CEO of Activision Blizzard Inc., Bobby Kotick, knew for years about sexual-misconduct allegations at the “videogame giant” he leads. This allegation is not news to fans of the games made by the company, or to former and current employees, some of whom took to social media to share their terrible experiences at the company.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Activision has been thrown into turmoil in recent months by multiple regulatory investigations into alleged sexual assaults and mistreatment of female employees dating back years. Mr. Kotick has told directors and other executives he wasn’t aware of many of the allegations of misconduct, and he has played down others. This information came from people familiar with the matter and internal documents.

Here is a significant paragraph from The Wall Street Journal:

Those documents, which include memos, emails and regulatory requests, and interviews with former employees and others familiar with the company, however, cast Mr. Kotick’s response in a different light. They show that he knew about allegations of employee misconduct in many parts of the company. He didn’t inform the board of directors about everything he knew, the interviews and documents show, even after regulators began investigating the incidents in 2018. Some departing employees who were accused of misconduct were praised on the way out, while their co-workers were asked to remain silent about the matters.

Today, employees at Activision Blizzard engaged in a second walkout, specifically asking for CEO Bobby Kotick to be replaced. The @ABetterABK Twitter welcomed people to join the walkout. It also called for CEO Bobby Kotick to be replaced. It also will continue to hold their original demand for third-party review by an employee-chosen source.

The Wall Street Journal article includes examples of alleged misconduct by Activision employees that have not previously been reported. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not it is healthy for you to read those descriptions.

As someone who has spent a lot of time playing some of Blizzard’s games, I find it extremely troubling that the company continues to have a huge problem with sexual harassment and sexual assaults. Based on The Wall Street Journal article, it appears that CEO Bobby Kotick knew what was happening and intentionally allowed this type of behavior to continue. He should be removed from the company.