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Microsoft announces more Xbox leadership changes as Activision’s Bobby Kotick departs

Microsoft announces more Xbox leadership changes as Activision’s Bobby Kotick departs

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Microsoft is largely keeping the Activision Blizzard leadership structure in place, minus a few high-profile names.

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is stepping down officially December 29th. Microsoft has not appointed a direct replacement and instead has rolled the suite of Activision Blizzard executives — including Blizzard president Mike Ybarra, Activision publishing president Rob Kostich, and Activision Blizzard vice chair Thomas Tippl — under Microsoft’s game content and studios president Matt Booty.

Kotick’s departure comes just two months after some big Xbox leadership changes that saw Sarah Bond promoted to Xbox president, leading all Xbox platform and hardware work, and Matt Booty promoted to president of game content and studios, including overseeing Bethesda and ZeniMax studios. Now Booty is getting even more responsibilities with Bethesda, Activision Blizzard, and Xbox Game Studios all under his watch.

Microsoft is largely keeping the leadership team of Activision Blizzard in place, with some executive-level exceptions. Activision Blizzard chief communications officer Lulu Meservey will leave the company at the end of January. Humam Sakhnini (vice chairman, Blizzard and King) will also depart at the end of December. A number of Activision Blizzard executives will depart in March, too.

Brian Bulatao (chief administrative officer), Julie Hodges (chief people officer), Armin Zerza (chief financial officer), and Grant Dixton (chief legal officer) are all reporting to their Microsoft Gaming equivalents. While Thomas Tippl (vice chairman, Activision Blizzard) is reporting to Matt Booty for now, he will depart Microsoft in March alongside other Activision Blizzard executives. “Thomas, Brian, Julie, Grant and Armin will continue to help us with the transition through March 2024,” says Xbox chief Phil Spencer, in an internal memo obtained by The Verge.

Additionally, a memo from Matt Booty announced some of the changes taking place at ZeniMax and Bethesda, including that Jill Braff has been named the new head of those studios. Braff worked on the integration team when ZeniMax and Bethesda joined Xbox back in 2021 and will lead the studios’ development teams.

Microsoft continues to integrate Activision Blizzard into its expanded Microsoft Gaming business, and it’s clear Matt Booty is now taking more responsibility than ever before. Xbox fans are now waiting to hear from Microsoft on its plans to add Activision Blizzard games to Xbox Game Pass. Spencer previously blamed the deal’s long regulatory process for not having a back catalog of Activision Blizzard games available on Game Pass, warning we’d have to wait until 2024 for news on game additions. Activision Blizzard also revealed on X (formerly Twitter), ahead of the Microsoft deal closing, that Modern Warfare III and Diablo IV both won’t be coming to Xbox Game Pass this year.

Here’s Phil Spencer’s full internal memo:

Earlier today, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick formally announced that Friday December 29th, 2023 will be his last day at Microsoft Gaming. Under Bobby’s watch, Activision Blizzard in its many incarnations has been an enduring pillar of video games. Whether it’s Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga or any number of other titles, his teams have created beloved franchises and entertained hundreds of millions of players for decades. I’d like to thank Bobby—for his invaluable contributions to this industry, his partnership in closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition and his collaboration following the close—and I wish him and his family the very best in his next chapter.

With Bobby’s impending departure, we are taking the next step in aligning Activision Blizzard with Microsoft Gaming, by making the following organizational changes:

Thomas Tippl (Vice Chairman, Activision Blizzard), Rob Kostich (President, Activision Publishing), Mike Ybarra (President, Blizzard Entertainment) and Tjodolf Sommestad (President, King) will report to Matt Booty (President, Game Content and Studios). The leadership teams for Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King will remain in place, with no changes to the structure of how the studios and business units are run.

Brian Bulatao (Chief Administrative Officer) will report to Dave McCarthy (Chief Operations Officer, Microsoft Gaming).

Julie Hodges (Chief People Officer) will report to Cynthia Per-Lee (Corporate Vice President, Gaming Human Resources).

Grant Dixton (Chief Legal Officer) will report to Linda Norman (Corporate Vice President, Gaming CELA).

Armin Zerza (Chief Financial Officer) will continue to report to Tim Stuart (Corporate Vice President, Finance), as we previously announced to the Finance team in October.

Thomas, Brian, Julie, Grant and Armin will continue to help us with the transition through March 2024.

Lulu Meservey (Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Communications Officer) will be leaving ABK at the end of January. She has agreed to support Kari Perez (General Manager, Communications) on a leadership transition plan for the ABK Communications team, which will report to Kari. Additionally, Humam Sakhnini (Vice Chairman, Blizzard and King) will depart at the end of December. We thank Humam and Lulu for their leadership over the past year.

For most of you, your day-to-day work will remain the same—it’s still business as usual in bringing more groundbreaking experiences to more players around the world. At the leadership level, these changes will provide the clarity and accountability that is necessary to achieve our ambitious goals and foster a culture that is welcoming, empowering, and committed to Gaming for Everyone. We have an exciting 2024 lineup of games across Activision, Bethesda, Blizzard, King and Xbox Game Studios, and I know that we all look forward to sharing more details with our player communities when the time is right.

Phil

Here’s the memo from Matt Booty:

Today, we are delighted to welcome the talented game development teams from Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King to our Game Studios and Content organization. Together with Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda our studios organization will continue our mission to build world-class games that entertain and inspire players and create lasting communities of dedicated fans.

In addition, today we are announcing Jill Braff as Head of the ZeniMax/Bethesda studios. Jill has a wealth of experience in games and entertainment, with previous roles at Nintendo, Sega, Glu Mobile, Home Shopping Network and at Warner Bros. building the online and marketing business for the Ellen DeGeneres Show. She was our leader for the integration work when ZeniMax/Bethesda joined Xbox, and through that work she has come to know many of their teams and leaders well.

Jill will be responsible for leading the ZeniMax/Bethesda game development teams, which will continue to operate as limited integration entities, as well as continuing to oversee the Microsoft Casual Games team. Reporting to Jill will be Todd Howard, Todd Vaughn, Matt Firor, Paul Jensen, and Heather Cooper.

Jamie Leder will remain in his role as CEO of ZeniMax/Bethesda, reporting to me, and will continue supporting the ongoing integration work. To support the development of the ZeniMax/Bethesda portfolio of games, Robert Gray (ZeniMax Quality Assurance) and Timothy Beggs (ZeniMax Release Management) will move to report Todd Vaughn.

Building on the successful launch of Starfield, all the ZeniMax/Bethesda studios are poised to create some of the most exciting and innovative games in the industry. I am confident that Jill’s leadership and support of the teams, along with her proven ability to build meaningful bridges back to Xbox, will further empower everyone at Bethesda to bring amazing experiences to our players.

I want to thank each of you for your dedication and hard work. The best part of leadership at Xbox is the opportunity to see across all our projects and engage with all our teams. I’m excited for 2024 and our slate of games over the next 18 months is looking strong. Together we can create amazing, memorable experiences for our players, built in a culture that empowers everyone to be their most authentic selves and do their best work.

-Matt

Update December 20th, 1:18PM ET: Added details from Matt Booty’s memo about ZeniMax and Bethesda.