Activision Blizzard employees stage walkout to demand Bobby Kotick's removal

Bobby Kotick
(Image credit: Bloomberg (Getty Images))

In the wake of a bombshell report claiming that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of widespread sexual harassment at the company and in 2006 threatened to have an assistant killed, the ABK Workers Alliance has issued a formal demand for Kotick's removal and called for an employee walkout today.

"We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy," ABetterABK tweeted. "We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for third-party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a walkout today. We welcome you to join us."

The ABK Workers Alliance was formed in the wake of lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleged "numerous complaints about unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation" at the company. Last month Activision made a series of commitments in response to the group's demands, including an end to mandatory arbitration in employee contracts, better compensation transparency, and new policies aimed at improving diversity and representation throughout the company.

ABetterABK hailed the action as "a huge win" for employees, and a similar employee group at Ubisoft used the relative swiftness of Activision's response to highlight Ubisoft's own relatively glacial pace of change. Attitudes have hardened considerably in the wake of these latest allegations, but for the moment Kotick does not appear ready to throw in the towel: In response to the Wall Street Journal report, Kotick issued a statement calling it "inaccurate and misleading," and said that anyone who doubts his commitment to bring about change at Activision "doesn't really appreciate how important this is to me."

Activision Blizzard's board of directors also expressed support for Kotick's leadership, saying that he "appropriately addressed workplace issues" that were brought to his attention.

"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 directors said in a statement.

"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."

Responding to that statement, the ABK Workers Alliance said the board of directors is "just as complicit" in the abuses at Activision Blizzard as Kotick, and reiterated its call for his ouster.

This will be the second walkout staged by the ABK Workers Alliance since the allegations of widespread harassment and abuse came to light: Employees also walked out in late July to protest Activision Blizzard's initial response to the DFEH lawsuit. 

Update: Organizers say that as of 4:15 pm ET, more than 150 employees have shown up to the walkout, and more are on the way. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.