The Activision Blizzard lawsuit: All the headlines
Update: Settlement with EEOC leads to creation of $18m fund to compensate current and former staff
Content warning: The following article discusses sexual harassment, sexual abuse and suicide.
Last week, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for "violations of the state's civil rights and equal pay laws" pertaining to its treatment of women.
The lawsuit is the result of a two-year investigation into the company, and has sparked an industry-wide call for those in power to significantly improve working conditions for women and marginalised groups in the games industry.
You can find all of the biggest stories concerning the lawsuit in our newsfeed, and we will be keeping track of developments as they happen in a dedicated article.
Lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard, company calls case "distorted" and "inaccurate"
The lawsuit, which emerged on July 22nd, describes Activision Blizzard as a "breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women."
It also alleges a "frat boy culture" at the company, where women have to "continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers", and are subjected to "being groped" during "cube crawls", an activity that sees male employees get drunk and harass women in the office.
The document also highlights a pay gap across multiple roles at the company. It alleges that women at Activision Blizzard need to "work harder and longer" to afford the same opportunities as male employees in the same roles.A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard commented on the lawsuit, and said that the behaviour alleged in the case is "not the Blizzard workplace of today", while calling the complaint "inaccurate" and "rushed".
"The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past," they said. "We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so."
Bungie speaks out against toxic studio cultures following Activision lawsuit
Destiny maker Bungie made a statement regarding the lawsuit, as well as its own internal efforts to counteract harassment. The studio, formerly a partner of Activision, admitted that some employees have reported experiences of harassment, but the firm said it does what it can to "push back on a persistent culture of harassment, abuse, and inequality that exists in our industry."
"It's our responsibility to ensure this type of behaviour is not tolerated at Bungie at any level, and that we never excuse it or sweep it under the rug," the company said via Twitter. "While the accounts in this week's news are difficult to read, we hope they will lead to justice, awareness and accountability."
Gaming outlets halt Activision Blizzard coverage
Following the lawsuit, several gaming outlets pledged to stop covering and promoting Activision Blizzard titles until changes are made.
The Gamer editor-in-chief Kirk McKeand shared his decision to do so via Twitter, writing, "we're going to stop covering Activision and Blizzard games until there's some real change and this gaslighting bollocks ends. We'll cover the ongoing news regarding the current story but we won't be covering the games."
The Gamer was soon followed by Prima Games -- which also extended its coverage decision to Ubisoft -- and YouTube channel GameXplain.
Blizzard president addresses harassment, discrimination lawsuit
J. Allen Brack acknowledged the "extremely troubling" hurt of employees and allegations detailed in the lawsuit in a memo sent to staff. Brack's internal message was a notable contrast to the original external response from Activision Blizzard.
He added: "While I can't comment on the specifics of the case as it's an open investigation, what I can say is that the behavior detailed in the allegations is completely unacceptable."
Former Activision Blizzard execs apologise for "failing" women
Blizzard co-founder, former president and CEO Mike Morhaime and former VP of story and franchise development Chris Metzen both released statements addressing the lawsuit.
Morhaime apologised for "failing" women during his 28-year tenure at Blizzard, and said he is "ashamed" of the behaviour alleged in the document.
Metzen, who retired in 2016, also offered apologies "for the part I played in a culture that fostered harassment, inequality, and indifference."
Activision Blizzard employees reveal plans to walkout
On July 27th, staff at Blizzard's campus in Irvine, California took part in a walkout to protest against the company's leadership.
Employees released an official statement of demands for the strike, and also encouraged anyone wanting to support from afar to donate to a chosen list of initiatives.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick details action to address issues raised by lawsuit
Days after the lawsuit emerged, CEO Bobby Kotick issued a statement saying that law firm WilmerHale will be reviewing Blizzard's policies and procedures to ensure they "promote a respectful and inclusive workplace."
He also shared a list of actions that the company will be taking to improve, effective immediately. This included a review process of "managers and leaders" across the company, and "listening sessions" so that staff can share ideas on how the workplace culture can be improved.
World of Warcraft team promises changes following Activision Blizzard lawsuit
Developers behind the game made their own statement regarding the situation at the firm -- pledging to make additional changes both in and out of the title.
The team did not provide specific details on what would be removed from the game, but fans have recently called for the removal of an NPC named after former WoW senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi, who was named in the lawsuit for allegedly harassing women during his time at the company.
WoW senior system designer Jeff Hamilton also said via Twitter that "almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out."
Shareholder rights law firm investigating Activision Blizzard
Shareholder rights law firm Robbins LLP has launched an investigation into Activision Blizzard, with concerns that certain directors and officers at the firm have violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and breached their fiduciary duties to the company.
Over 3,800 current and former Activision Blizzard staff decry response to lawsuit
Former and current staff of the company signed an open letter condemning the company's reaction to the lawsuit, which called Activision Blizzard's response "abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for."
The letter called for Activision Blizzard to recognise the "seriousness" of the accusations and "demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault."
Activision Blizzard staff respond to Bobby Kotick statement
Staff at Activision Blizzard criticised Bobby Kotick's attempts to address concerns at the company, saying that his original email "fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns."
The employee statement specifically details the areas that Kotick's statement appeared to not address, and added, "this is the beginning of an enduring movement in favour of better labour conditions for all employees, especially women, in particular women of colour, transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalised groups."
Ubisoft staff back Activision Blizzard protestors, call for industry-wide change
Current and former Ubisoft employees have shared their own open letter addressed to the company's management team -- including CEO Yves Guillemot -- as well as Activision Blizzard workers.
The letter expressed solidarity with the workers at Activision, while calling for an industry-wide collaboration on improving how harassment is handled. Over 500 people have signed the letter as of writing; signatories include employees from 32 Ubisoft studios.
Activision Blizzard confirms former WoW creative director was fired over misconduct
The company confirmed Alex Afrasiabi's dismissal last year over "misconduct in his treatment of other employees."
Afrasiabi was named in the lawsuit over his alleged behaviour towards women at Blizzard -- the document reporting that he was "so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the 'Cosby Suite' after alleged rapist Bill Cosby."
Kotaku has run an extensive report on the 'Cosby Suite' -- Afrasiabi's hotel room during BlizzCon 2013 -- and the alleged misconduct that took place there.
Fan site WoWhead has also confirmed that in-game references to Afrasiabi have been taken out of World of Warcraft following fan calls to have them removed.
Activision Blizzard faces new lawsuit, this time from its investors
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Activision Blizzard by investor rights company Rosen Law Firm on behalf of the studio's investors.
The lawsuit alleges that between August 4, 2016 and July 27, 2021, "purchasers of the securities of Activision Blizzard" were misled, as the company didn't disclose the issues with its workplace culture.
President J. Allen Brack leaves Blizzard
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack is leaving the firm after 15 years to "pursue new opportunities" according to Activision.
Executive vice presidents Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed as co-leaders of the company, effective immediately.
Abuse allegations overshadow Activision Blizzard second quarter results
Activision Blizzard reported its second quarter financial results, but only after addressing the recent lawsuit.
While net revenues were up 19% to $2.3 billion, Activision Blizzard saw bookings drop 8% year-over-year to $1.92 billion. Net income rose 51% to $876 million.
Breaking down the numbers by division, only King managed to outperform last year's second quarter, with segment revenues up 15% to $635 million.
Activision saw its revenues drop more than 20% to $789 million, while Blizzard revenues slipped 6% to $433 million.
Activision Blizzard staff reject company's choice of law firm
Activision Blizzard employees sent a joint letter to CEO Bobby Kotick and leadership denouncing the company's choice for hiring law firm WilmerHale.
The alliance rejects the decision for multiple reasons, one of which being a conflict of interest as the firm allegedly has "pre-existing relationships with Activision Blizzard and its executives."
Bobby Kotick expects Activision Blizzard to become "the very best example for other companies to emulate"
Kotick opened the company's investor call with another statement reiterating the company's commitment to addressing the issues raised by the lawsuit, saying, "I want to start by making clear to everyone that that's no place in our company where discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind will be tolerated. Nowhere," Kotick began. "We so appreciate the current and former employees who have come forward in the past and recent days with courage, and I want to reiterate the commitments we have made to you."
Kotick also claimed the company would continue to investigate "each and every claim we receive" and will "take decisive action" when it learns of any shortcomings, although he did not offer detail on what this might involve.
Blizzard HR executive leaves company amid harassment lawsuit
Activision Blizzard's SVP of global HR Jesse Meschuk reportedly left the company earlier this week.
Meschuk's departure was reported by Bloomberg and follows criticism of the firm's HR department as part of a lawsuit alleging harassment and sexual discrimination at Activision Blizzard. Part of the case claims that the company's HR department failed to protect its employees and address concerns raised.
Report: Morhaime, other Blizzard execs were informed of rampant misconduct
Multiple new reports on August 6 provided another look into the allegedly toxic studio culture within Activision Blizzard, as Bloomberg and The Washington Post both published pieces incorporating interviews with former and current employees of the company's Blizzard division.
Bloomberg also reported that an assistant of Blizzard co-founder and former CEO Michael Morhaime claimed to have informed him, as well as other senior leadership, about rampant misconduct that went on within the company.
Activision Blizzard investor says publisher's promises are "inadequate"
Shareholder SOC Investment Group has said that Activision Blizzard's promises to improve its company culture aren't enough.
"While we appreciate the improved tone and increased detail in CEO [Bobby] Kotick's recent letter to Activision Blizzard employees, customers, and shareholders, the changes Mr. Kotick has announced do not go nearly far enough to address the deep and widespread issues with equity, inclusion, and human capital management at the company," executive director Dieter Waizeneggar said.
Activision Blizzard lets go Diablo 4, World of Warcraft developers
Three Activision Blizzard employees have been let go in the midst of the lawsuit the company is facing.
As reported by Kotaku, Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga, lead designer Jesse McCree, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft have left the company. The news was announced internally and no reason was given for their departure, but McCree and LeCraft both appeared in the photo taken in the 'Cosby Suite' that emerged a couple of weeks ago.
California DFEH expands lawsuit
The State of California's Department for Fair Employment and Housing has amended its original complaint, now stating it is suing on behalf of all 'workers' rather than 'employees' in order to represent temporary staff as well.
In the amended filing, the government body also accuses the Call of Duty publisher of withholding or even shredding documents it requested for this investigation, and claims that the appointment of law firm WilmerHale to speak with employees confidentially "directly inteferes" with the case.
Activision Blizzard has denied these new allegations, and claims it "complied with every proper request" from the DFEH.
Activision Blizzard hires new HR boss
Amid the backlash following the multiple lawsuits, the publisher announced it has hired Julie Hodges -- formerly senior vice president, corporate HR and compensation, benefits and talent acquisition at The Walt Disney Company -- as its new chief people officer.
Hodges starts on September 21 and replaces Claudine Naughton, who departs the publisher after just over two years in the role. Activision Blizzard also announced it has hired ex-Delta Airlines exec Sandeep Dube as chief commercial officer, a role that has been vacant since Armin Zezra was appointed CFO earlier this year.
Activision Blizzard accused of interfering with employees' right to organize
The Communications Workers of America is accusing Activision Blizzard of illegal union busting tactics, according to a complaint now before the National Labor Relations Board.
The union is accusing the publisher of violating its employees' rights to self-organize, saying it "has threatened employees that they cannot talk about or communicate about wages, hours and working conditions."
Activision Blizzard did not comment on the charges.
SEC, EEOC also investigating Activision Blizzard
The Wall Street Journal reported that the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have also been looking into Activision Blizzard.
The SEC has subpoenaed separation agreements, personnel files, and discussions CEO Bobby Kotick had regarding the allegations in the California DFEH lawsuit, in part to see if the company made appropriate disclosures to investors about the DFEH investigation prior to the suit being filed.
As for the EEOC, it is in talks with Activision Blizzard about a possible settlement to resolve an investigation into allegations of gender-based harassment at the company that has been ongoing since at least May of 2020.
Blizzard chief legal officer departs amid multiple lawsuits
The same day the SEC and EEOC investigations came to light, Claire Hart announced on LinkedIn that she had stepped down from her position as chief legal officer at Blizzard Entertainment, saying, "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."
A few days later, Overwatch executive producer Chacko Sonny announced his departure from Blizzard, making him the fourth high-profile departure since August.
Kotick: "Absolutely no place" at Activision Blizzard for unequal treatment
The day after investors learned about SEC and EEOC investigations into Activision Blizzard from the press rather than the company itself, CEO Bobby Kotick released a statement assuring that publisher was cooperating with authorities, saying, "There is absolutely no place anywhere in our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind."
Kotick added that the company was "committed to addressing all workplace issues in a forthright and prompt manner," and in regards to the SEC investigation, Activision Blizzard said it was "confident in its prior disclosures."
Activision Blizzard reaches settlement with EEOC, sets up $18m fund to compensate affected staff
The publisher announced an agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity commission that will see it take steps to address the complaints raised by the US governmental body.
Central to this is an $18 million fund to "compensate eligible claimants" among current and former staff, as approved by the EEOC. Claimants will be able to seek relief for a variety of harassment and abuse issues experienced since September 2016, with any leftover funds to be donated to charities (again, donated by the EEOC).
The publisher will also hire an internal EEO coordinator, develop software tools and training programs to improve workplaces across the industry, and bring in an EEOC-approved consultant to ensure it complies with the agreement.