Ben Brode Talks About a Harrasment Situation, Reports and Firings and More
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In a press release, Activision Blizzard announced they've formed a new Workplace Responsibility Committee to ensure the implementation of initiatives to eliminate harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
The Committee is being chaired by independent directors Dawn Ostroff, Chief Content Officer and Advertising Business Officer of Spotify and Reveta Bowers, independent governance and organizational consultant for non-profit organizations.
The Committee will require management to develop key performance indicators and/or other means to measure progress and ensure accountability.
The Chief Executive Officer, the Chief People Officer, and Chief Compliance Officer will provide frequent progress reports to the Committee, which will regularly pass the information to the full Board.
You can read the full press release below.
SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 22, 2021-- The Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI) Board of Directors today announced that it has formed a “Workplace Responsibility Committee” (the “Committee”), initially comprised of two independent directors, to oversee the Company’s progress in successfully implementing its new policies, procedures, and commitments to improve workplace culture and eliminate all forms of harassment and discrimination at the Company. The Committee is being chaired by Dawn Ostroff, an independent director since 2020. Reveta Bowers, an independent director since 2018, will serve on the Committee. In addition, the Company is working to add a new, diverse director to the Board.
The Committee will require management to develop key performance indicators and/or other means to measure progress and ensure accountability. The Chief Executive Officer, Bobby Kotick, along with the Chief People Officer and Chief Compliance Officer will provide frequent progress reports to the Committee, which will regularly brief the full Board. The Committee is empowered to retain outside consultants or advisers, including independent legal counsel, to assist in its work.
The Activision Blizzard Board is committed to ensuring a healthy workplace in which all employees feel valued, safe, and respected. Our Audit Committee has been kept apprised of developments, including the EEOC and DFEH investigations. The Board supports the numerous steps taken by management since 2018 to improve workplace culture, including centralizing the human resources function in 2019 to ensure greater consistency and accountability, strengthening and increasing training, and, most recently, improving methods for reporting and responding to complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Beginning in October, the Board has been meeting bi-weekly for in-depth assessments on related plans and progress and also now receives detailed written weekly reports. The Board remains committed to helping drive significant, additional improvements.
As announced on September 27, 2021, in an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Company, upon court approval of the agreement, will hire an EEO Coordinator; that Coordinator will have a direct reporting line to the Board. The Committee will engage regularly with the EEO Coordinator and an independent EEO Consultant, who will be engaged consistent with the agreement. The duties of these two separate EEO functions will provide transparency both to the EEOC and the Workplace Responsibility Committee.
While the Company, with the Board’s support, has been making important progress to improve workplace culture, it is clear that current circumstances demand increased Board engagement. Formation of the Committee and additional future changes will help facilitate additional direct oversight and transparency and ensure that the Company’s commitments to Activision Blizzard’s workforce are carried out with urgency and impact. This has been a challenging time across the Company, but the Board is confident in the actions underway to set the Company up for future success.
About Activision Blizzard
Our mission, to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment has never been more important. Through communities rooted in our video game franchises we enable hundreds of millions of people to experience joy, thrill, and achievement. We enable social connections through the lens of fun, and we foster purpose and a sense of accomplishment through healthy competition. Like sport, but with greater accessibility, our players can find purpose and meaning through competitive gaming. Video games, unlike any other social or entertainment media, have the ability to break down the barriers that can inhibit tolerance and understanding. Celebrating differences is at the core of our culture and ensures we can create games for players of diverse backgrounds in the 190 countries our games are played.
As a member of the Fortune 500 and as a component company of the S&P 500, we have an extraordinary track record of delivering superior shareholder returns for over 30 years.
Our enduring franchises are some of the world’s most popular, including Call of Duty®, Crash Bandicoot™, World of Warcraft®, Overwatch®, Hearthstone®, Diablo®, StarCraft®, Candy Crush™, Bubble Witch™, Pet Rescue™ and Farm Heroes™. Our sustained success has enabled the company to support corporate social responsibility initiatives that are directly tied to our franchises. As an example, our Call of Duty Endowment has helped find employment for over 90,000 veterans.
Learn more information about Activision Blizzard and how we connect and engage the world through epic entertainment on the company's website, www.activisionblizzard.com.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This press release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. We may, in some cases, use terms such as “predicts,” “believes,” “potential,” “proposed,” “continue,” “estimates,” “anticipates” “expects,” “plans,” “intends” “may,” “could,” “might,” “will,” “should” or other words that convey uncertainty of future events or outcomes to identify these forward-looking statements. Such statements are subject to numerous important factors, risks and uncertainties that may cause actual events or results to differ materially from the Company’s current expectations. These and other risks are described in the Company’s periodic reports, including the annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K, filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission and available at www.sec.gov. Any forward-looking statements that the Company makes in this press release speak only as of the date of this press release. The Company assumes no obligation to update forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, after the date of this press release.
View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20211122006725/en/
Investors and Analysts:
Source: Activision Blizzard, Inc.
The Reason Behind Jen Oneal's Departure, Bobby Kotick's Knowledge of Previous Sexual Misconduct Allegations: A Wall Street Journal ReportBy Starym
The Wall Street Journal published a very detailed article dealing mostly with Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick's knowledge of the recent allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the company, including the real reason Jen Oneal left her leadership position at Blizzard. Kotick, Activision Blizzard employees, the board of directors, and the ABK Workers Alliance also responded below.
The article is based on unnamed sources within Activision Blizzard and focuses on how much CEO Bobby Kotick knew about the allegations and what's he's done about them throughout the years, including stories of sexual harassment from various Activision Blizzard studios, including Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games and Blizzard itself.
The biggest piece of Blizzard-specific news in the article is regarding the recent departure of co-lead Jen Oneal, who announced she was leaving earlier this month to "explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well". However, an internal company email paints an entirely different picture of her departure, as the Wall Street Journal explains:
In August, Activision named a longtime employee, Jennifer Oneal, to be Blizzard’s co-head, making her the first woman to lead one of the company’s business units. The following month, she sent an email to a member of Activision’s legal team in which she professed a lack of faith in Activision’s leadership to turn the culture around, saying “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.”
Ms. Oneal said in the email she had been sexually harassed earlier in her career at Activision, and that she was paid less than her male counterpart at the helm of Blizzard, and wanted to discuss her resignation. “I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against,” wrote Ms. Oneal, who is Asian-American and gay.
- The Wall Street Journal
The article continues to list various incidents from different Activision Blizzard studios in which Bobby Kotick allegedly either had knowledge of, or directly intervened in sexual harassment incidents to protect accused developers, or did not report some of the cases to the board of directors, including sexual assault allegations. You can read the full article here, as it delves into many individual stories from the company's past.
Bobby Kotick responded to the article in an internal video on his commitment to the company and its future. Here's the transcript:
A Message from CEO Bobby Kotick (Source)
Today, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick shared a video message with the company's employees. Here is the transcript of his remarks:
"I want to talk with you today about our future and reiterate my conviction to create the most welcoming and inclusive workplace.
Over the last few months, so many of you have generously and candidly shared your experiences and your insights about the type of company you want us to be.
We’ve taken meaningful actions to improve our company and our culture. But there is more to do. To become the model workplace we all aspire to be, more change is required. But I am so confident we will get there.
There will, of course, be continued media attention about us and our industry over the next few months. In fact, there’s an article today that paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.
I want to say two important things about this:
First, we are incredibly fortunate to have the most talented people in our industry all so committed to constant improvement. And I share this commitment.
The second thing I want to say is that anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.
Creativity and inspiration thrives best in a safe, welcoming, respectful environment. There is no substitute for that. And staying true to our values, without exceptions, is the best way to retain our talent and to attract the new talent we need to achieve our great potential.
As I have made clear, we are moving forward with a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior -- and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable.
We have a chance to further enhance our culture and be the example other companies will follow. And we are so incredibly fortunate. Connecting and engaging the world through joy and fun is a powerful mission. Accomplishing this in a welcoming, inclusive workplace ensures we will achieve our mission with excellence.
Over the last few years our industry has had an uncomfortable spotlight that’s been illuminating opportunities for us to change. And we must all, including me, embrace this need for change, so we can bring our very best selves to the very best place to work.
Thank you for your commitment to a culture of respect, your appreciation for the unique talents we each possess, and for maintaining the very best environment for all of us to work.
For that, I am truly grateful."
The ABK Workers Alliance commented specifically on Kotick's response to the article and announced an employee walkout:
Jason Schreier of Bloomberg reports that the walkout is already fairly large:
The Activision Blizzard board of directors has stated that they are standing by Kotick:
ATVI Board of Directors (Source)
SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 16, 2021-- The Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI) Board of Directors released the following statement responding to recent media stories.
“The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry. Under Bobby Kotick's leadership the Company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.
The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick's leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”
Activision Blizzard workers celebrate a huge victory today. The company has increased the minimum hourly rate for all temporary employees to $17 per hour. They will also receive 13 paid holidays each year, and more.
This is "a result of collective action and there is still more work to do", according to Senior Test Analyst Jessica Gonzalez.
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Blizzard co-lead Jen Oneal yesterday announced her departure from Blizzard Entertainment and here's her message to the community.
To the Blizzard community,
Over the last few months, many of us have been taking the time to ask ourselves how we can effect the most positive change in our workplace, in our games, and in our communities.
On a macro level, Mike Ybarra and I, along with the rest of Blizzard, have been navigating the important changes we must undertake in order to be known as the creative powerhouse that brought hundreds of millions of players into Azeroth, Sanctuary, and more, all while ensuring our workplace and game communities are truly inclusive, safe, and inviting to all.
On a micro level, as I’ve listened to the stories from people all over Blizzard and been inspired by their courage and conviction, I’ve been thinking about the potential of what I can do as an individual to create the most meaningful change. For the last 20 years of my career, I have loved developing games--they are my lifeblood. I also have been fortunate to find my passion and voice in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space along the way.
Those of you who have played our games will know that sometimes our adventures can keep you on the quest you set out on, but sometimes, a new quest beckons us.
I want you to hear from me personally that I have made the decision to step away from co-leading Blizzard Entertainment and will transition to a new position before departing ABK at the end of the year. Effective immediately, Mike Ybarra will lead Blizzard. I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite--I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts. This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well. While I am not totally sure what form that will take, I am excited to embark on a new journey to find out.
ABK’s leadership is graciously offering their support for my decision and has worked with me on a plan to invest in the future of other women in the gaming industry, by agreeing to make a US $1 million grant to Women in Games International--a fantastic non-profit organization, where I am a board member, that cultivates and advances equality and diversity in the global games industry. This money will be used to fund skill-building and mentorship programs.
With my remaining time here, I will be transferring my responsibilities to Mike, and transitioning into a new role working closely with Activision Blizzard and WIGI to determine the first steps around how the grant will be utilized, and its structure. The partnership is full of potential and is another step in a long-term commitment to create better support, resources, and guidance to women in the gaming industry.
Mike has been unbelievably supportive throughout my decision-making process around this move, and I have every confidence in him leading Blizzard. Mike and I have been working together to develop many of the actions we’ll be taking to continue making Blizzard a safer, stronger, and more inclusive workplace, and I know he plans on sharing some of those actions with you soon.
I wanted to tell the Blizzard community this personally because I want you to know I believe so strongly in Mike and the rest of Blizzard’s leadership both in terms of Blizzard’s culture and Blizzard’s games. Blizzard’s best days are ahead. I truly believe that. I also am hoping this letter helps you to think about what you can do to make everyone around you--no matter their gender, race, or identity--feel welcome, comfortable, and free to be themselves.
Thank you for the support you have shown our teams over the last few months. I know that your positive messages have helped our people tremendously during this time.
And to everyone at Blizzard, thank you--for your honesty, your belief in a better future, and your incredible work ethic, creativity, and passion. You inspired me to find my own path in championing the cause for equality and my hope is that you inspire our players to do the same.
Thank you again,
Activision Blizzard held their third quarter earnings call for 2021 and we had some pretty big revelations, including the delays of Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2, Blizzard's financial situation and more, so let's take a look at the highlights.
Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 delayed: it seems very likely they will not be launching in 2022, as Activision Blizzard CFO Armin Zerza mentioned they will not be including the two games in their financial outlook for 2022. With the recent departures of the leads on both the games, this is perhaps expected, as Blizzard leader Mike Ybarra commented that the extra time will allow both development teams to expand and be able to follow up the games' launches with "substantial content releases".
Blizzard had 26 million monthly active users, the exact same amount as in the second quarter. Blizzard's Q3 2021 ($493 million) revenue grew 20% compared to last year, mostly due to Diablo 2: Resurrected. D2R had the all-time highest first week of sales for a remaster for all of Activision Blizzard. Diablo: Immortal release is scheduled for Q1 2022. WoW is expected to deliver its highest engagement and net bookings for a non-expansion release year in a decade. The two most important financial industry stats: Revenue: $1.88 billion versus $1.88 billion expected. Earnings per share: $0.72 versus $0.70 expected. The Q3 results met analyst expectations and was a solid performance, the reported outlook for Q4 did not meet expectations.
You can check out the full visual presentation here, or check out the press release with a lot more numbers below:
Q3 Earnings (Source)
SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 2, 2021-- Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) today announced third-quarter 2021 results.
“I’m pleased to report strong third quarter results ahead of our prior outlook,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “We are excited about this week’s Call of Duty launch and expect continued success in the fourth quarter. I want to thank our employees for their continued commitment to each other, the company, and our players. We look forward to sharing progress updates on our workplace initiatives, alongside our business performance.”
(in millions, except EPS)
GAAP Net Revenues
Impact of GAAP deferralsA
Impact of GAAP deferralsA
* Prior outlook was provided by the company on August 3, 2021 in its earnings release.
Please refer to the tables at the back of this earnings release for a reconciliation of the company’s GAAP and non-GAAP results.
For the quarter ended September 30, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net revenues presented in accordance with GAAP were $2.07 billion, as compared with $1.95 billion for the third quarter of 2020. GAAP net revenues from digital channels were $1.85 billion. GAAP operating margin was 40%. GAAP earnings per diluted share was $0.82, as compared with $0.78 for the third quarter of 2020. On a non-GAAP basis, Activision Blizzard’s operating margin was 43% and earnings per diluted share was $0.89, as compared with $0.88 for the third quarter of 2020.
For the quarter, operating cash flow was $521 million, as compared with $196 million for the third quarter of 2020. For the trailing twelve-month period, operating cash flow was $2.89 billion.
Please refer to the tables at the back of this press release for a reconciliation of the company’s GAAP and non-GAAP results.
For the quarter ended September 30, 2021, Activision Blizzard’s net bookingsB were $1.88 billion, as compared with $1.77 billion for the third quarter of 2020. In-game net bookingsC were $1.20 billion consistent with the third quarter of 2020.
For the quarter ended September 30, 2021, overall Activision Blizzard Monthly Active Users (MAUs)D were 390 million.
Commitment to a Safe, Inclusive Working Environment
We are committed to becoming the most welcoming, inclusive company in our industry. We are taking further steps to advance our commitment with greater impact, transparency, and urgency.
We are adding staff and resources to our ethics and compliance and employee relations teams. We are continuing to thoroughly investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive. As a result of this process, more than 20 individuals have exited the company in recent months. We are implementing a zero-tolerance harassment policy across Activision Blizzard that will be applied consistently. Our goal is to have the strictest harassment and non-retaliation policies of any employer. Based on feedback from employees, we are waiving required arbitration of future individual sexual harassment and discrimination claims. We have introduced the goal of increasing the percentage of women and non-binary people in our workforce by 50% within the next five years, to more than one-third across the entire company. We plan to invest an additional $250 million over the next 10 years in initiatives that foster expanded opportunities in gaming and technology for under-represented communities. To help us continue to recruit, retain and promote employees from all backgrounds and identities, we are implementing the requirement for a diverse slate of candidates for all full-time open positions. A review of 2020 U.S. pay equity at our company conducted by an independent firm showed that women on average earned slightly more than men for comparable work in 2020. We are committed to compensation remaining equitable for men and women performing comparable work in 2021, and beyond. In September we announced a comprehensive agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is subject to court approval, to strengthen policies and programs intended to further improve the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and related conduct. As part of the agreement, we will establish an $18 million fund to compensate those who have experienced such behavior at our company and elect to participate.
The company continues to monitor the progress of its business units, franchise teams, and functional leaders with respect to workplace initiatives. We will continue to provide regular updates to all stakeholders.
Selected Business Highlights
Activision Blizzard’s third quarter results were above our outlook. Third quarter monthly active usersD were consistent with the year-ago level, even as regions continued to re-open, while net bookingsB and operating income grew year-over-year. This performance again illustrates the structural expansion that our talented and passionate teams have driven in our largest franchises as they created new ways for players to interact with our intellectual properties, including free-to-play experiences. We continue to increase investment in creative talent so that we can grow and delight the communities for each of our key franchises.
The Call of Duty® ecosystem sustained reach, engagement, and player investment well above levels seen prior to the introduction of free-to-play experiences across console, PC, and mobile. Activision segment revenue grew year-over-year to a new record on a year-to-date basis. Segment revenue was lower year-over-year in the third quarter due to the launch of Tony Hawk’sTM Pro SkaterTM 1 + 2 in the year ago quarter and declines in Call of Duty against a quarter that benefited from shelter-at-home mandates and the early ramp of WarzoneTM. Activision had 119 million MAUsD in the third quarter. MAUsD in the Call of Duty franchise were consistent year-over-year on console and PC and grew on mobile. On console and PC, Call of Duty MAUsD and time spent exhibited very similar retention from Q2 to Q3 as our experiences in prior years. In-game player investment on console and PC remained well above the level seen prior to the Warzone launch, at approximately three times the level of Q3 2019. Strong conversion from free-to-play drove premium sales higher than in any third quarter prior to the launch of Warzone. For Call of Duty Mobile, net bookings grew over 40% year-over-year in the third quarter, driven by double digit growth in the West and a continued contribution from the game in China. Call of Duty: Vanguard will release on November 5, followed by the roll out of Call of Duty: Warzone Pacific, the biggest update to the Warzone experience since launch, on December 2. Blizzard
Blizzard segment revenue grew 20% year-over-year in the third quarter, driven by the successful launch of Diablo® II: ResurrectedTM. Blizzard had 26 million MAUsD in the third quarter. For Diablo, our plan to enter an era of unprecedented content scale for the franchise has experienced a strong start with the September release of Diablo II: Resurrected, the return of one of the most acclaimed titles in PC gaming history. First week sales of the title were the highest recorded for a remaster from the company. On mobile, Diablo® ImmortalTM is in public testing, and remains on track for release in the first half of next year. World of Warcraft® reach and engagement continues to benefit from the combination of the Modern game and Classic under a single subscription. World of Warcraft is on track to deliver its strongest engagement and net bookings outside of a Modern expansion year in a decade. Hearthstone® net bookings were stable year-over-year in the third quarter. In October, the team launched MercenariesTM, an innovative role-playing mode that gives existing, returning and new Hearthstone players an entirely new way to play the game. King
King segment revenue grew 22% year-over-year to a new quarterly record, with very strong year-over-year trends for both in-app purchases and advertising. King had 245 million MAUsD in the third quarter. Hours played across the King portfolio grew year-over-year in the third quarter, with players responding positively to a more frequent cadence of compelling in-game content and events for key titles. Payer numbers grew by a double-digit percentage versus the year ago quarter. In-game net bookings for Candy CrushTM grew over 20% year-over-year, with Candy Crush once again the top-grossing game franchise in the U.S. app stores1. At the end of the third quarter King launched the Candy Crush All Stars U.S. tournament which has driven meaningful increases in installs, game rounds played and in-app purchases in recent weeks. King has been accelerating and refining content delivery in Farm HeroesTM, its second largest franchise. This work continued to bear fruit in the third quarter, and in-game net bookings have grown around 20% year-over-year on a year-to-date basis. King’s advertising business grew robustly, with quarterly revenue growing sequentially and year-over-year to a new high. Both volume and pricing grew strongly year-over-year, benefiting from the team’s growing relationships with demand partners and the ongoing ramp of new categories of advertisers. Company Outlook
(in millions, except EPS)
Impact of GAAP
Fully Diluted Shares
Fully Diluted Shares
Net bookingsB are expected to be $8.65 billion for 2021 and $2.78 billion for the fourth quarter of 2021.