The news of Microsoft buying struggling publisher Activision Blizzard is all anyone on the gaming side of Twitter could talk about. It is one of the biggest deals in gaming history, and could show a major direction shift for what Microsoft has planned for the future of Xbox and gaming as a whole. While the acquisition is major news, there are still plenty of questions about what this will mean for the current situation, and if Microsoft will aid or hamper workers looking for justice.
For anyone not familiar with the situation, Activision Blizzard has been embroiled in a slew of scandals and allegations over the past few months. Starting with the report on abuse at Blizzard, the situation has expanded well beyond the confines of the World of Warcraft developer. From all the allegations and reports, it appears to be the management at the centre of the publisher that enabled all the abuse, and covered it up for years. Beyond that, Bobby Kotick, the current CEO, was chief in covering up some of the more salacious situations.
With cases stacking up against Activision Blizzard, and consistent strikes, it seemed there was no way out to make the brand that was once loved, acceptable again. While many in the game-buying public turned a blind eye to problems within the studios, the situation had gotten to the point where it was starting to hurt the bottom line. Calls for Bobby Kotick to step down and hand over the company to someone else were seen on social media regularly, so this move by Microsoft gives the company a way out of the storm.
Phil Spencer is seen by many as a force for good in gaming. He pushes for studios to craft games with the time needed, and he has been seen as a uniting force, promoting good over profit, at least on the surface. So, with the news that he would now be the direct overseer of Activision Blizzard, that solves the problem, and gives the studio a new figurehead that is not hated.
This does not address the biggest elephant in the room. Bobby Kotick is still the CEO, and even with the massive deal, and his mismanagement of the situation that led to this point, he still retains a massive level of control. Even if Microsoft wants to get rid of him, Kotick has a large amount of power, and would get a fair profit should he be pushed out as a result of this deal. So, while Xbox may be seen as a force for good, there is still a lot needed to make the embattled publisher something gamers can support going forward.
“So now that Microsoft is in charge, there is a lot needed to rebuild the trust in Activision Blizzard.”
Now that Microsoft is in charge, there is a lot needed to rebuild the trust in Activision Blizzard. First and foremost is the situation at Blizzard. They have lost a lot of talent and the toxic frat boy work culture needs to stop. This is a studio that helped shape the modern gaming landscape, and the people on the ground need to treat it like a place of work, with the staff treated as an asset not something to be pushed to their breaking point. Microsoft needs to bring a new work culture to the studio, make it a place where people want to work, not something to be avoided.
The same goes for all the studios that make up Activision Blizzard, including Raven, Infinity Ward and Treyarch who helped craft the Call of Duty franchise. While the allegations against these studios are far less severe, the quality assurance department for Warzone has walked off the job, and the mistreatment of the different levels of staff seems to be endemic at the many studios Activision Blizzard runs.
It all feels like the many-headed hydra of abuse, mistreatment and mismanagement that has plagued the studio for years. While profits and solid game releases helped mask the situation, this is something that can’t be overlooked any further. Now, with Microsoft looking to take over the reins of the massive publisher, they must also look to fix the issues.
Bobby Kotick and his management team have allowed these issues, and the cleanup process has only made it more apparent that there needs to be a change. With this purchase, Microsoft inherited the problems, and they will be responsible if the abuse and other troubles persist. While I would love to see a cleaning of the house at the publisher, it is unclear what Microsoft has planned. One thing is clear, if the issues are not cleaned up, Microsoft will be painting themselves with the same brush Kotick has painted Activision for years.
I hope Xbox and Phil Spencer are able to right the Activision Blizzard ship. They have many IPs that have helped shape gaming, and the talent pool at the studios can not be denied. But without some major effort, and work to address the many problems, there is no saving the troubled publisher. Money can buy many things, but it can’t fix a sinking ship if you never fill the holes.