Bulletins

Xbox chief Phil Spencer joins Sony in slamming Activision Blizzard

The head of the Xbox division had strong words for Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick in a leaked email to staff.

Phil Spencer wearing a black jacket and smiling while talking at E3

Phil Spencer told Xbox staff that he was "disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions" at Activision Blizzard.

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Xbox chief Phil Spencer said Microsoft is in the process of reevaluating its relationship with major game publisher Activision Blizzard. His comments come in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report regarding CEO Bobby Kotick's prior knowledge of sexual assault and workplace discrimination, according to a leaked email sent to Microsoft staff and obtained by Bloomberg.


Spencer told Xbox staff that he was "disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions" at Activision Blizzard, referring specifically to the WSJ report on Kotick. "This type of behavior has no place in our industry," Spencer added, saying Microsoft would, going forward, have to think about how closely it wants to associate with the publisher.

Spencer's comments come on the heels of PlayStation chief Jim Ryan similarly rebuking Kotick and the leadership at Activision Blizzard in an email to staff Wednesday. "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," Ryan wrote, according to Bloomberg. "We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation."

Taken together, Spencer and Ryan's statements form the harshest condemnation of Activision Blizzard from high-level game executives to date and reflect the severe atmosphere in which Kotick now attempts to navigate the crisis and hold onto his job in the process. The ABK Workers Alliance, an employee activist group, has called for Kotick's resignation, as has a group of investors.

Since the WSJ report published, a number of details surrounding Activision Blizzard's poor handling of the situation have come to light, including how it failed to pay the new female co-lead of Blizzard, Jen Oneal, the same salary as her male counterpart, leading in part to Oneal's resignation mere months after taking over for disgraced former president J. Allen Brack.

Despite the wave of negative stories and increasing backlash from the industry, the board of directors has stood by Kotick. The company has since tried to reassure employees that it is committed to change, though some workers have reportedly been unconvinced by many of the gestures, including a seemingly strategic week of time off for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"We respect all feedback from our valued partners and are engaging with them further," Activision said in a statement. "We have detailed important changes we have implemented in recent weeks, and we will continue to do so. We are committed to the work of ensuring our culture and workplace are safe, diverse, and inclusive. We know it will take time, but we will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team."

The Wall Street Journal's report on Tuesday detailed how involved Kotick has been in past instances of misconduct and helping cover them up, including his protection of high-level employees accused of sexual harassment and his role in reaching out-of-court settlements with accusers that he subsequently kept hidden from his board.

Activision Blizzard is now under investigation by the SEC for this alleged behavior, and the company also remains in a legal battle with California over an investigation the state launched in 2018 into the company's workplace issues. California's lawsuit kicked off a reckoning at the company this past summer and resulted in numerous firings, employee protests, a federal settlement and a number of measures from Kotick and upper management to try and quell the storm, including a pay cut for the chief executive and the end of forced arbitration clauses in worker contracts.

But mounting pressure on Kotick to resign for his complicity and active participation in the company's toxic workplace culture has brought renewed attention to company's failings.

Latest Bulletins

Startups that soared throughout the pandemic are now feeling the crunch, and on-demand grocery company Gorillas is the latest victim. The company announced Tuesday that it's laying off half its corporate staff, or about 300 employees around the world.

Keep Reading Show less

Netflix is releasing three new games Tuesday and plans to release Exploding Kittens, its most high-profile original game, on May 31, the company announced on Tuesday. Netflix says its catalog now includes 22 games in total.

Keep Reading Show less

Barely more than two weeks after it agreed to stop selling its existing collection of face prints to private entities, facial recognition firm Clearview AI has a brand new plan to sell its software to private companies instead.

Keep Reading Show less

LGBTQ+ workers are generally less satisfied with their employers than their straight, cisgender colleagues are, according to a new report from Glassdoor. But some companies are more popular with their LGBTQ+ employees than others.

Keep Reading Show less

Last year saw a notable jump in ransomware attacks that included exfiltration of data as a component, highlighting an ongoing shift in the way the attacks are monetized, according to Verizon's major annual breach report.

Keep Reading Show less

Snap is the latest tech giant to join The Great Hunkering Down. Like other social media companies that flourished during lockdown, the company is struggling to meet earnings estimates and will slow hiring.

Keep Reading Show less

Spotify stopped hosting political ads on its services in early 2020, citing a lack of “robustness” in its systems, ahead of what turned out to be the ugliest U.S. election in recent history.

Two years later, as the midterm primaries get going, the company is courting political advertisers once again, according to a company presentation and marketing email viewed by Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less

Quality assurance testers at Call of Duty studio Raven Software have voted overwhelmingly to form a union with the Communications Workers of America, marking a historic labor victory for the video game industry. The vote, with the Milwaukee office of the National Labor Relations Board, was 19-3.

Keep Reading Show less

Federal labor prosecutors in California plan to file a complaint against Activision Blizzard for illegally threatening workers if the company doesn't agree to a settlement, according to National Labor Relations Board spokesperson Kayla Blado.

Keep Reading Show less

Swedish "buy now, pay later" company Klarna is laying off 10% of its workforce, CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski told staff via a pre-recorded video call Monday. Interest in pay-later products has sagged somewhat as consumers have felt more financially strapped and advocates in the U.S. began investigating the deferred payment plans last year. Klarna has reportedly been looking for more funding, potentially at a lower valuation.

Keep Reading Show less

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the nation’s largest pension funds, announced that it will vote to remove all of Twitter’s directors at this week’s annual shareholder meeting. The vote against the directors is unlikely to result in change, but it shows mounting institutional pressure for Twitter to resist Elon Musk’s vision for relaxed content moderation policies.

Keep Reading Show less

Apple is looking to boost global production outside of China as the country’s "zero-COVID" strategy cripples production facilities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The strict lockdown, which has been described by the WHO as "not sustainable," has shut down large cities, including Shanghai, as the highly infectious omicron variant spreads.

Keep Reading Show less

As the Supreme Court weighs whether to block Texas' social media "censorship" law, a court of appeals has decided to uphold the injunction on a similar Florida law, finding that social media companies "are 'private actors' whose rights the First Amendment protects."

Keep Reading Show less

GameStop is all about Web3: The company announced on Monday that it will launch a digital wallet for crypto and NFTs.

The GameStop wallet can be used across apps without users needing to leave their browsers, the company said in a statement. The self-custodial Ethereum wallet gives users access to the keys to their digital assets rather than trusting them with a third party, and is available for download as an extension on Google Chrome's web store as well as on web browser Brave. The wallet will also be available as an iPhone app down the line, according to the GameStop wallet website. The wallet uses Loopring for transactions, a Layer 2 solution that's meant to lower transaction fees.

Keep Reading Show less

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is suing Mark Zuckerberg, alleging the Meta CEO was responsible for decisions that opened the door for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Keep Reading Show less

The U.K.'s Information Commissioner’s Office, the country's privacy watchdog, has ordered facial recognition company Clearview AI to delete all data belonging to the country's residents.

Keep Reading Show less

Meta will finally give researchers access to targeting data for political ads — information that academics have been clamoring for and using legally risky workarounds to collect on their own for years.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase just celebrated its 10th birthday. And the crypto powerhouse marked the milestone on a defiant note, with a snarky TV ad clapping back at crypto bashers.

Keep Reading Show less

Google is allowing some Android apps to use their own payment systems after getting into battles with both Match Group and Epic Games' Bandcamp, but the move might be temporary. The company is facing legal action for requiring apps in the Google Play Store to use its billing, and the interim solution Google came up with is to let those apps use their own payments — with a catch.

Keep Reading Show less

Larry Ellison was among the participants on a call in November 2020, during which top Trump allies discussed ways to contest the election results, according to The Washington Post. It's unclear what role Ellison played on the call, but The Post found evidence of Ellison's apparent involvement in court records and confirmed with one of the call's other participants.

Keep Reading Show less

Microsoft Bing has exported Chinese censorship abroad, according to a new report by The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.

Bing searches for national figures, leaders within the Chinese Communist Party, dissidents and topics that Beijing considers politically sensitive did not appear in auto-suggest in North America, according to the report. Among the search terms that didn't generate autocomplete suggestions were searches for President Xi Jinping, the late human rights activist Liu Xiaobo and searches related to the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Keep Reading Show less

Google had its "best year yet" for hiring Black and Latinx employees in the U.S. as well as women globally, according to its 2022 Diversity Annual Report. The hiring rate increased for Black, Latinx, Native American and female employees, although these identities are still very underrepresented compared to white and male employees.

Keep Reading Show less

Tech companies are figuring out how to handle the upcoming historic Supreme Court decision that could overturn abortion rights. In the case of Meta, that includes telling employees to not talk about it at work. Meta VP of HR Janelle Gale told workers during an all-hands on Thursday not to talk about abortion on Workplace, the company's internal messaging platform.

Keep Reading Show less

As many tech companies face a slump and crypto looks set for a deep freeze, Coinbase is facing reality and hitting the brakes on spending. The company is halting some business projects, freezing hiring for two weeks and cutting its spending on Amazon Web Services, the Information reported Thursday.

Keep Reading Show less

AWS reached a private settlement with a female employee who accused now-former executive Joshua Burgin of discrimination and harrasement, Protocol has learned.

Keep Reading Show less
Bulletins