Xbox boss is 'evaluating all aspects' of Microsoft's relationship with Activision Blizzard

Bobby Kotick
(Image credit: Drew Angerer (Getty))

Embattled Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick remains at the head of the company and continues to have the backing of the board of directors, which issued a statement earlier this week saying it "remains confident" in his leadership. But now it's facing pressure to take action from a large number of employees, as well as a couple of very important external sources: A report earlier today revealed that Sony Interactive president and CEO Jim Ryan had criticized Activision Blizzard's "deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment" in an internal email, and now a Bloomberg report says Xbox boss Phil Spencer has sent a similar email to Microsoft staff.

Spencer said the Xbox leadership team is "disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions" at Activision Blizzard, a starkly critical reference to new allegations that Kotick was aware of widespread sexual abuse and harassment at the company. But Spencer went even further, saying that he is "evaluating all aspects" of Microsoft's relationship with Activision Blizzard and "making ongoing proactive adjustments," not too subtly implying that as long as the situation remains unchanged, the partnership between the two companies could suffer.

A Microsoft representative confirmed that the Bloomberg report is accurate.

"I personally have strong values for a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox," Spencer said in a statement emailed to PC Gamer. "This is not a destination but a journey that we will always be on. The leadership at Xbox and Microsoft stand by our teams and support them in building a safer environment for all."

In response to the report, an Activision spokesperson said the company respects "feedback" from its partners and is "engaging with them further" on the matter.

"We have detailed important changes we have implemented in recent weeks, and we will continue to do so," the representative said. "We are committed to the work of ensuring our culture and workplace are safe, diverse, and inclusive. We know it will take time, but we will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team."

Pressure on Kotick to step down is growing. More than 150 employees staged a walkout earlier this week to demand his resignation, and hundreds more have signed a petition circulated today calling for the same. The company's share price has also been headed the wrong way since mid-July, when California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed the lawsuit that dragged these allegations into the open. Kotick has previously indicated that he intends to lead the company out of its current chaos, but if the heads of two major console platforms have decided he's too toxic to have around, Activision Blizzard's board of directors may have no choice but to cut its losses.

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.