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Activision Blizzard Fireside Chat with Bobby Kotick On Company's Future Under Microsoft
20/01/2022 à 17:30
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick held a video conference with employees today, answering questions read by Chief People Officer Julie Hodges. As relayed by
The Washington Post
, Kotick's Fireside Chat discussed the future of the company following
Microsoft's $68.7 billion acquisition
, covering topics from potential layoffs to his own uncertain role moving forward.
With several other interviews, SEC filings, and comments made by both Activision and Microsoft executives since the deal was announced, associated articles have also been included to provide additional context as necessary.
Microsoft to Retain Employees
First and foremost, Kotick attempted to assuage fears of layoffs or downsizing, though the Post reported that bringing up the subject may have actually had the opposite effect on some. In a somewhat maddingly unspecific
SEC information filing
on the proposed sale, Activision Blizzard similarly stated that there were no plans to layoff existing employees, although the statement largely covered the period up until formal acquisition rather than what might happen after. That said, Zenimax Media (Bethesda Softworks, ID Software, Arkane Studios, MachineGames) was also
formerly acquired by Microsoft
in 2021, with no reports of notable downsizing within those studios.
The Washington Post
Kotick said during Thursday’s video call that “the transition is going to be smooth because committed to trying to retain as many of our people as possible.”
Following the video call, several Activision Blizzard employees told The Washington Post the comment made them suspicious of upcoming layoffs.
Will there be layoffs as a result of this transaction?
Microsoft has made it clear that they want to preserve and grow the value that Activision Blizzard brings, and that includes the talented team at Activision Blizzard.
We anticipate Microsoft's diversified operation will create meaningful opportunities for Activision Blizzard employees and will provide Activision Blizzard with access to additional world-class developer talent who will collaborate with you, our existing, incredible talent.
Activision's Forgotten Games
Other topics included the Activision Blizzard workforce not having to switch over to Microsoft Teams, along with the possibility of developing new installments in long-forgotten game franchises. Spencer echoed these comments
in a separate interview
, in which he gushed over the potential within Activision Blizzard's extensive library of intellectual property.
The Washington Post
Kotick said the deal came about because Microsoft deeply admired Activision Blizzard and wanted to get in on investing in the metaverse. He mused on the idea of the company helping to create another “Guitar Hero.”
“I was looking at the IP list, I mean, let’s go!” Spencer said. "‘King’s Quest,’ ‘Guitar Hero.’ ... I should know this but I think they got ‘HeXen.’”
Spencer said the Xbox team will talk with developers about working on a variety of franchises from the Activision Blizzard vaults.
“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to work with them when the deal closes to make sure we have resources to work on franchises that I love from my childhood and that the teams really want to get,” Spencer said. “I’m looking forward to these conversations. I really think it’s about adding resources and increasing capability.”
Fans have similarly voiced their interest in the potential that Activision Blizzard operating under Microsoft might now bring, similar to the manner in which Disney's acquisition of Marvel Studios brought the Avengers under the same banner as the X-Men and Fantastic Four for the first time since the late 90's, opening the door for
more potential crossovers
Kotick Clinging, Future Uncertain
Regarding his own role moving forward, the CEO made it sound as though his plan was to stay on following transition over to Microsoft. This question has been at the forefront of everyone's mind, with no definitive answer yet being made - every time the question is raised, it has been confirmed that Kotick would remain CEO throughout the transition, but trailing off to say that "the company" would report to Phil Spencer following formal acquisition. The Wall Street Journal previously asserted that people familiar with the plans stated that
both companies agreed Kotick would depart
once the deal closes, though as with many stories concerning Activision Blizzard, there has been no public verification.
New York Times correspondent Karen Weise reported that Kotick said
"post close I will be available as needed,"
while in an interview with Gamesbeat Kotick said that
reporting to Phil is an easy thing to do
, as the two have enjoyed a long and friendly relationship. These uncertain statements make it seem like Kotick is vying for some sort of advisory capacity, though the lack of certainty is also somewhat telling - coming across as a grab for whatever will keep him involved in the company he rebuilt from the ground up.
The Washington Post
Hodges asked Kotick if he would stay on as CEO after the deal closes. Kotick responded that the transaction’s completion would follow a lengthy process.
“This is a company that I’ve now been here for 31 years, and there is nothing more important to me, other than my children, than this company,” Kotick said. “I can tell you that my commitment to the company is remain in my role. Once the deal closes, what I’ve committed to Microsoft is I will stay as long as is necessary to ensure that we have a great integration and a great transition.”
With trust in the CEO at an all time low, employees are naturally skeptical of Kotick's statements, although they largely mirror those made by Microsoft's newly appointed CEO of Gaming Phil Spencer, who has repeatedly expressed confidence in their plan to help navigate Activision Blizzard through their ongoing cultural and legal issues. Likewise, Spencer has been adamant that Activision Blizzard will continue to honor existing contracts and agreements regarding their games and services on other platforms, though many still wonder if at least some of their games won't become Xbox & PC exclusive once those existing contracts expire. In response to these concerns, Spencer has publicly stated that
“our goal is to allow the content to reach as many players as possible,”
though only time will tell.
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