When Microsoft announced its plan to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the gaming world was stunned.
The console war that had raged for the best part of twenty years between Xbox and Playstation had seen a significant shift. This purchase means Microsoft and its gaming division Xbox would own a huge number of highly valuable intellectual properties including Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Crash Bandicoot.
Of course, the Federal Trade Commission’s permission is still required to complete the deal.
However, beneath this headline grabbing gaming story is a much more important issue for the staff of Activision Blizzard.
Activision Blizzard has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons in recent years, but particularly in the second half of 2021.
Since July 2021, the gaming giant has been the subject of a myriad of employee complaints and legal disputes around sexual harassment, abuse, and a toxic company culture.
As a result, even when this acquisition was announced, several dozen workers were on strike. A large issue has been the fact that those who are alleged to have enabled harassment to remain in the company and facilitated abuses, most notable CEO Bobby Kotick.
The issues with Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard
Now, Activision Blizzard’s workplace environment has led to Microsoft employees expressing concerns in internal emails.
Insider has shared feedback from Microsoft employees after the deal was announced.
On an internal message board, one member of staff wrote: “I’m really disappointed that we didn’t hear from Satya what his plans are to make sure that the awful culture that has taken root in Activision/Blizzard won’t fester and spread within Microsoft.
“I personally would never entertain the idea of working for/with Blizzard or Activision for my own safety and welfare as a female engineer.
“I hope we hear concrete steps to make sure we aren’t introducing a dangerous and unwelcome culture.”
Discussing the acquisition, a Microsoft spokesperson clarified that the companies will operate separately until the deal is expected to be finalized in the fiscal year of 2023.
However, the spokesperson referenced the CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella‘s comments that it is “critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward on its renewed cultural commitments,” but that “we recognize that after close, we will have significant work to do in order to continue to build a culture where everyone can do their best work.”
Despite these words, one Microsoft employee said: “For women fighting for better work conditions at Microsoft, it’s difficult to accept Satya’s continuous silence about it.”
It was also reported by the Wall Street Journal that Kotick is expected to leave when the deal closes.
Speaking about the acquisition, Phil Spencer. who will become the Head of Microsoft Gaming when this deal is complete, said: “Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect.
“We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.”
“As Satya mentioned, I am now CEO, Microsoft Gaming. This change is a reflection of the incredible work each of you are doing to create the best entertainment ecosystem anywhere.
“As a leadership team, we know how much exciting but difficult work we have ahead of us, so it’s crucial that we operate as a single, unified team.”
Of course, how Microsoft reassures its staff and implements cultural change at Activision Blizzard will now be paramount to the success of this proposed deal.
UNLEASH has reached out to Microsoft for comment on its plans to address the issues at Activision Blizzard but has yet to receive a response.