Following a bombshell Wall Street Journal report that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick allegedly knew, withheld, and even participated in harassment and abusive behavior, the company’s big console partners Sony and Microsoft are semi-privately expressing their distress. Bloomberg is now reporting that Microsoft boss Phil Spencer has now told staff he was “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” at Activision Blizzard and that Microsoft is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments” as a result.
“The Bloomberg report is accurate,” a Microsoft spokesperson tells The Verge. Microsoft also shared a generic, completely unrelated statement about how Microsoft wants a “welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox.”
Yesterday, Sony PlayStation boss Jim Ryan similarly told employees that the company had expressed “deep concern” with Activision Blizzard, according to Bloomberg, adding that “[we] do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”
These private statements from Sony and Microsoft obviously don’t carry anywhere near the same weight as if these companies publicly called out the situation at Activision Blizzard, and it’s not clear if either company is interested in taking any concrete actions yet. Activision Blizzard is one of the most powerful publishers in the video game industry, and both console makers rely on them to provide new big-budget games for their consoles.
That said, Microsoft and Sony also want to be seen as committed to a less toxic video game industry, and Phil Spencer, in particular, has made combating toxicity part of his public brand. “This type of behavior has no place in our industry,” reads part of Spencer’s new memo about Activision Blizzard, according to Bloomberg.
“We respect all feedback from our valued partners and are engaging with them further,” Activision Blizzard 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.”
While over 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed a petition to remove CEO Bobby Kotick from the company, and some shareholders have demanded his resignation, the board of directors has so far signaled they’re confident in his leadership.
[Disclosure: Casey Wasserman is on the board of directors for Activision Blizzard as well as the board of directors of Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.]
Update November 18th, 5:10PM ET: Added statement from Activision Blizzard.