Activision Blizzard denies report that CEO Bobby Kotick blocked release of internal discipline report

Bobby Kotick speaks at a conference in Beverly Hills
(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg (Getty))

A new Wall Street Journal report says Activision Blizzard has fire or pushed out 37 employees since July 2021 as part of the company's investigation into complaints of sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct, while 44 more have faced other forms of discipline. The report also shows that the company has collected roughly 700 reports of possible workplace misconduct—some of them separate reports about the same incidents—over the same period.

Sources also told the site that a summary of those actions was set to be released ahead of the holiday break, but was held back by CEO Bobby Kotick over concerns that they could make the company's problems seem even more serious than was already known.

An Activision Blizzard representative confirmed with WSJ that 37 employees have "exited" the company as a result of its investigations into complaints, and that 44 others have been disciplined. The rep disputed the report of 700 complaints, however, saying that comments from employees included statements made on social media and covered a range of concerns, only "a small number" of which were potentially serious allegations. The rep also said that "the assertion regarding Mr. Kotick is untrue," and that "our focus is making sure we have accurate data and analysis to share."

In an email sent to PC Gamer, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said the company is "working tirelessly so that every employee feels safe, equal, heard and empowered."

"Whether a comment about culture, an incident or suggested improvements, every single report that the company receives matters, and we have significantly increased the resources available to ensure that we can quickly and thoroughly look into each one," the representative said. “Through our expanded Ethics & Compliance function, we have completed reviews of more than 90% of the reports since July. From these completed reviews, 37 employees have exited the company and another 44 received written reprimands, formal warnings or other discipline.

“The assertion that Mr. Kotick blocked the release of this information is simply inaccurate. An interim update to our employees is still being worked on, and the company remains committed to continuing to provide periodic updates on its progress.”

Allegations of widespread harassment, discrimination, and a "frat boy" culture at Activision Blizzard first came to light in July 2021, in the wake of a lawsuit filed against the company by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Shortly after that, Kotick promised wholesale changes at the company, pledging that "people will be held responsible for their actions," and later took a symbolic pay cut.

But he's been under increasing pressure to step down since a November follow-up report alleging that Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct allegations at the company for years, had in fact harassed one of his own assistants, and even threatened to have her killed in 2006. That sparked calls for his removal from employees, shareholders, and even a political activist group. In December, six US state treasurers sent a letter to Activision Blizzard asking for a meeting with its board to discuss concerns outlined by the SOC Investment Group, which in November called on Kotick to resign "for failing to recognize and address" the company's problems.

For now, however, Kotick remains in his position with the public support of Activision Blizzard's board of directors, which in November 2021 expressed confidence in his "leadership, commitment and ability to achieve [the company's] goals.” and "that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention,"

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.