At Activision's internal meeting—inexplicably hosted by James Corden—Bobby Kotick promises a 'new dimension of emotional connection' powered by AI

CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, speaks onstage during "Managing Excellence: Getting Consistently Great Results" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 19, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
(Image credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

As reported by Windows Central, sources have shared the inside details of an internal townhall yesterday between Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and Activision-Blizzard employees.

This was apparently hosted by James Corden. In case you're not familiar, Corden's known for his role in beloved british sitcom Gavin and Stacey, movies like Into the Woods hosting The Late Late Show, and disrupting traffic to promote Cinderella by hip thrusting in a mouse outfit.

So, perhaps a bizarre choice—but sure. James Corden hosted an internal town hall at Activision-Blizzard. Stranger things have happened. Somewhere. Presumably.

Kotick spoke to Corden about how the company's leadership culture—one he described as "magic" and "special"—would continue. The CEO also spoke on the future of AI in Activision's future games: "If you look at the new technologies that are on the horizon, we're going to be able to do things that we've never done before with AI and machine learning … We have characters on the screen and video games [with] mouth movements and facial animation that is realistic—you're going to have a new dimension of emotional connection that we've not yet mastered."

I am not exactly sure how AI—specifically, machine learning stuff—has anything to do with realistic animation. Some of the best physical acting we've seen as of late has been from Baldur's Gate 3, which was achieved through motion capture of over 200 actors, which animators then translated fully into the game. 

There's a lot of techno wizardry going on to achieve that, but part of me wonders if Kotick's mixing his terms here. Granted, AI could nix a lot of the busywork in the right hands (2018's Into the Spiderverse used some machine learning to that effect) so I can see a future where AI helps the clean-up process.

On the other hand, realistic graphics aren't required for emotional connection. Some of the most heartfelt, tear-jerking stories have come from indie games on shoestring budgets, achieved by humble pixels. Still, AI is definitely going to form a part of Activision-Blizzard's creative makeup in the future, considering they've already patented their own in-house systems

Kotick also highlighted Elon Musk's neuralink as an example of technological advancement he's keen to see develop. "I talked a little earlier about the physical experience of interacting with something on screen. I think you'll see things like Neuralink—you'll actually be able to interact with things on the screen, where there isn't a controller … I just see unlimited potential for what we do."

I'm personally pretty happy with my mouse and keyboard—maybe a headset—over Musk's bright future of brain chips, but who knows. Maybe when everyone's playing Diablo 6 in full-immersion VR in 2030, and we're all able to pull on the individual hairs of Lorath's beard, I'll be eating my digitised NFT hat. 

Either way, it's full steam ahead on Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard after the appeasement of UK regulators last month, and the company's speaking to its employees as such—using James Corden of all people, a host whose reputation plummeted prior to the end of The Late Late Show earlier this year.

Kotick, meanwhile, continues to have an antagonistic relationship with parts of the company he runs, saying in May of this year that allegations of systemic sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard were the product of a "very aggressive labor movement working hard to try and destabilize the company." Those allegations, in part contained within a 2021 California lawsuit, led among other things to resignations, firings, employee walkouts, and the formation of the ABK Workers Alliance, a group of employees that has directly called for Kotick's replacement.

Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.