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Here's What's Happened With the Activision Blizzard Lawsuit (So Far)

Poorna Shankar Posted:
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Ever since the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard alleging sexual harassment and discrimination was filed on July 22, it’s safe to say several developments have occurred. To help you (and us) keep track of what’s happened (so far), we’ve compiled a list of events below.

Keep in mind, while we may not have covered every single development which took place in the last few weeks, we have been able to cover the big pieces. This includes the lawsuit itself, several statements made by former and current Blizzard and Activision folks, the walkout, and much more.

First up, the lawsuit was filed on July 22 alleging sexual harassment, unequal pay, and a frat boy culture at Activision Blizzard. Among those named in the lawsuit was J. Allen Brack, then-President of Blizzard (foreshadowing). https://www.mmorpg.com/news/california-files-lawsuit-against-activision-blizzard-alleging-sexual-harrassment-unequal-pay-and-frat-boy-culture-2000122605

Following the lawsuit, conflicting statements were put out by J. Allen Brack and Fran Townsend of Activision. The former displayed contrition while Townsend appeared to double down on Activision’s stance. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/blizzards-j-allen-brack-addresses-lawsuit-allegations-in-memo-to-employees-i-disdain-bro-culture-2000122617

The games industry responded, with several outlets refusing to cover any Activision Blizzard games until such time as genuine change transpires. Here at MMORPG, we will still continue to provide coverage of titles through the lens of this lawsuit. But we are not streaming any Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, or Riot games until we see substantive change. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/games-industry-reacts-to-activision-blizzard-lawsuit-as-multiple-games-sites-halt-coverage-of-publishers-games-2000122619

Following this, it appeared any development on World of Warcraft had ground to a halt for a time. Since then, some patches have released. But at the time, development ceased as more former and current developers spoke out. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/work-on-world-of-warcraft-all-but-stopped-due-to-activision-blizzard-lawsuit-as-more-former-and-current-developers-speak-out-2000122637

Several prominent former Blizzard folks spoke out. Notably, Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime noted he “failed” those affected. Chris Metzen and Greg Street were also among those who issued statements.

A letter co-signed by now-over 3000 Activision Blizzard employees was sent to management, denouncing the studio’s response to the lawsuit. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/letter-co-signed-by-over-1000-activision-blizzard-employees-sent-to-leadership-denouncing-studios-response-to-lawsuit-2000122639

Additionally, employees announced a walkout. In their statement, they cited four demands. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/activision-blizzard-employees-to-stage-walkout-to-protest-companys-work-culture-on-wednesday-2000122647

  1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
  2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
  3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
  4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK's reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.

Following this, Bobby Kotick issued his own statement, calling the initial response “tone deaf.” In his statement, Kotick offered actions, almost none of which bore resemblance to the demands issued by the Blizzard employees. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/activision-blizzard-ceo-bobby-kotick-issues-statement-to-employees-in-wake-of-lawsuit-allegations-calls-initial-response-tone-deaf-2000122656

The walkout then took place with event organizers noting Kotick’s response was inadequate and did not address the following: https://www.mmorpg.com/news/activision-blizzard-walkout-organizers-respond-to-ceos-statement-as-walkout-begins-today-2000122659

  • The end of forced arbitration for all employees.
  • Worker participation in oversight of hiring and promotion policies.
  • The need for greater pay transparency to ensure equality.
  • Employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes.

An alleged all-hands call with Activision executives noted how they had “never seen this [behavior]” before. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/activision-blizzard-execs-have-never-seen-this-behavior-according-to-all-hands-call-per-report-2000122640 

Earlier this week, J. Allen Brack stepped down as Blizzard President. Taking his place are Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra. Oneal has been with Blizzard for 18 years, while Ybarra comes from Xbox. Despite replacing Brack, the pair are not titled “President.” Instead, they are “co-leaders.” https://www.mmorpg.com/news/blizzards-j-allen-brack-is-stepping-down-as-president-2000122702

Later that day, Activision Blizzard Employees form the ABK alliance and submit a letter to management ahead of the earning’s call. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/activision-blizzard-employees-form-abk-workers-alliance-submit-letter-to-management-ahead-of-todays-earnings-call-2000122704

Former Blizzard and co-founder of ArenaNet, Jeff Strain, calls for unionization in the games industry. He notes he encourages his own employees to unionize. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/former-blizzard-and-co-founder-of-arenanet-jeff-strain-calls-for-unionization-in-the-games-industry-2000122682 

Sponsors like T-Mobile quietly pull their support from Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues. Meanwhile, a second lawsuit is filed alleging securities fraud due to the first lawsuit. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/t-mobile-drops-sponsorship-of-overwatch-and-call-of-duty-leagues-second-lawsuit-filed-against-activision-blizzard-2000122710

Most recently, Blizzard’s earnings call notes Monthly Active Users are down again, with quarter 2 revenue trending up for Activision Blizzard. https://www.mmorpg.com/news/blizzards-monthly-active-users-down-again-activision-blizzard-quarter-2-revenues-trend-upward-2000122706


ShankTheTank

Poorna Shankar

A highly opinionated avid PC gamer, Poorna blindly panics with his friends in various multiplayer games, much to the detriment of his team. Constantly questioning industry practices and a passion for technological progress drive his love for the video game industry. He pulls no punches and tells it like he sees it. He runs a podcast, Gaming The Industry, with fellow writer, Joseph Bradford, discussing industry practices and their effects on consumers.


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