Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick tells staff company's initial response to discrimination lawsuit was "tone deaf"

As share price falls.

Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick has told staff that the company's initial response to the recently-filed discrimination lawsuit was "tone deaf".

"Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf," Kotick said in an open letter to company staff that was made public last night.

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Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick.

"It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding."

This week, more than 2000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed a petition calling the company's response to the recent discrimination lawsuit "abhorrent and insulting".

Activision Blizzard's initial comment on the lawsuit was to strongly deny its claims.

Staff then heavily criticised an email sent to staff by Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who was the assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism to George W. Bush from 2004 to 2008.

"A recently-filed lawsuit presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories - some from more than a decade ago," Townsend said in the email.

"We work at a company that truly values equality and fairness," she added.

"Rest assured that leadership is committed to continuing to maintain a safe, fair, and inclusive workplace. We cannot let egregious actions of others, and a truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit, damage our culture of respect and equal opportunity for all employees."

Last night, Activision Blizzard employees announced a walkout planned for today, 28th July, in protest against the company's response.

Shares of Activision fell as much as nine percent in Tuesday trades amid the ongoing fallout. Now Kotick, who owns over 4m shares in Activision Blizzard, has issued his statement, announcing law firm WilmerHale has been drafted in to review company policies and procedures.

Effectively immediately, Kotick said, are five actions: more employee support; listening sessions moderated by third parties; "personnel changes" ("We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the Company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated"); more resources to ensure hiring managers have diverse candidate slates for all open positions; and "in-game changes".

On the fifth point, Kotick said "we have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content".

This tallies with a statement issued last night by the World of Warcraft development team on social media, which said "references that are not appropriate for our world" would be removed. The team said changes will be made to expansion Shadowlands and World of Warcraft Classic in the coming days.

Blizzard has yet to say what these changes will be, but it is widely expected they will include the removal of an in-game character based on the former senior creative director of World of Warcraft who allegedly "was permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions".

Players had called on Blizzard to remove a quest-giver in Stormwind City named Field Marshal Afrasiabi from the game, alongside its associated quests and all in-game content relating to the former senior creative director.

Kotick, who recently saw his $155m pay package approved by shareholders, ended his statement with this:

"Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.

"You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world."

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About the author

Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Editor  |  wyp100

Wesley is Eurogamer's editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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