Bobby Kotick told us who he was years ago. He told us exactly who he was when he oversaw the layoffs of 800 members of staff. He did so again when there were no consequences for his subsidiaries implementing forced, unpaid overtime. And he does so every year, when he takes a bonus of up to $200 million, while his employees are said to skip meals to pay rent.
For years, we’ve known that Kotick is a compulsive capitalist (and proud of it) who is not interested in using his vast amount of power to make the gaming industry a better place. He did nothing to stop crunch, pay disparity, and as we know now, sexist abuse in the workplace. Hell, he even dabbled in it himself, sending a death threat to a female member of staff, and saying he would “destroy” a flight attendant.
The fact that Kotick is still here is a stain on the industry. Kicking him out now is the very least Activision Blizzard could do, but the fact that it’s taken this long for his peers to condemn him shows how uninterested companies are in changing.
Even knowing how awful the industry is, Kotick’s conduct makes for some difficult reading. But it isn’t surprising – anyone who can fire hundreds of employees during a year of record-breaking profits, and then pocket a multimillion bonus obviously isn’t going to be too concerned with their wellbeing. As a compulsive capitalist, his behaviour indicates he is only motivated by revenue, which leaves no room to treat your employees like human beings.
You can’t be a compulsive capitalist and care about your staff’s wellbeing. Because when you catch wind about a sexual abuse allegation facing one of your executives, the smart thing to do, financially, is to back your guy – and intimidate the victim into silence.
But before any of that happened, the mass layoffs should have been enough for the industry to turn its back on Kotick and Activision Blizzard. That – as well as his donations to shithead politicians – is a pretty big indicator that he was capable of some nasty stuff. Yet the industry would never do that, because that hits a little too close to home.
EA laid off a quarter of its Australian studio’s staff in 2019. The late Telltale crunched its employees relentlessly and sacked the lot of them without severance pay. Rockstar, Naughty Dog, Ubisoft, Epic, NetherRealm, BioWare, Riot, Gearbox… let me know if I missed any. It seems like every company has faced accusations of workplace abuse now.
It takes threatening to kill a woman to turn heads in this industry because everything else has been done before.
Kotick needs to go, because he needed to go years ago. There’s no “better late than never” when every day left in power is another day of poverty wages, layoffs, and abusers being protected.
It’s also giving him more money – which could go towards increasing the wages of abused staff – to donate to the likes of Republicans Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie. Keeping him in place doesn’t just make it much more difficult for Activision Blizzard to change, it gives him more money to fight LGBTQ+ rights, free healthcare, and access to safe abortions.
Kotick is antithetical to any promises of Activision Blizzard “doing better”, and he has been for a long time. While he remains in place, union-busting firms are being hired, Bush and Trump administration staffers are helping to run the company, and employees are receiving emails gaslighting them about the alleged abuse. Oh, and Kotick used a female employee's email address to send out that last one, just to dodge accountability even more than he already does.
If there is any good to come from this, let it be a lesson. Compulsive capitalists cannot be trusted to root out abuse in the gaming industry. In fact, it prospers under their leadership. It goes against their philosophy, and if you’re paying the slightest bit of attention, it’s remarkably obvious that they don’t care.
Bobby Kotick needs to go, and this entire, abhorrent industry needs to stop acting like its hands are clean.
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