They had an opportunity to get off on the right foot
[Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that behind closed doors, Bobby Kotick is “expected” to leave Activision Blizzard after the deal is done, “according to people familiar with those plans.”]
Barring any monopoly-based discussions on Microsoft basically buying the entire industry at large, there’s one thing that really stuck out for me this morning after the Activision-acquisition was officially confirmed: Bobby Kotick is staying on, at least for the time being. Obviously this is going to be the case as Activision Blizzard operates independently, as they always have, but the vague messaging is not going to comfort current employees.
In an immediate blow to Activision’s rep, Kotick will remain in his current role as CEO of Activision Blizzard “until the deal closes,” and nothing has changed in the short term outside of an internal org chart.
Naturally, this is buried in the myriad front-facing elements of the announcement, save for one:
“Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.”
So breaking that down, the phrasing of “once the deal closes” does allow for Kotick to be ousted. Yet, Microsoft had a chance to completely change the messaging here day one, and note that after it does close, Kotick will be gone: but they didn’t say that. Instead, Activision Blizzard workers will have to live with the dread of not knowing. Is it unrealistic to think that he’d be removed immediately? Absolutely.
But this is just two months after Bobby Kotick reportedly “told senior managers he would consider leaving Activision Blizzard if he can’t quickly fix the culture problems at the publisher.” Since then, the ABK Workers Alliance (Activision Blizzard King) have been tirelessly providing updates on how Kotick has continued to make things worse for the company, and has not lived up to the promises of meaningful change.
Just a week ago Phil Spencer noted that they “changed the way they did business” with Activision, noting that there’s clearly a culture problem at the company (something LEGO even outright came out against). Some of this condemnation has been performative (including in Activision itself over the past several months), and now the ball is in Microsoft’s court to fix Activision after the deal has been completed. They still have a chance to make things right and fix Activision’s leadership once they have full control.