Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick steps down

21 Dec 2023

Bobby Kotick. Image: © Thomas Hawk/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Kotick’s departure comes alongside a number of other organisational changes following Microsoft’s acquisition of the gaming company.

Gaming leader Bobby Kotick will be stepping down as CEO of Activision Blizzard on 29 December.

The CEO formally announced his departure in a blogpost as he reflected on his time with the company. “As my last day leading this company inches closer, I marvel at how far the talented people at our company have come toward realising the great potential of games,” he wrote.

“You have transformed a hobbyist form of entertainment into the world’s most engaging medium. It has been the privilege of my lifetime to work alongside you as we broadened the appeal of games.”

His departure follows a turbulent couple of years since Microsoft announced its intention to buy the Activision Blizzard in January 2022.

As the biggest gaming deal in history, it was unsurprisingly inundated with competition concerns and regulatory probes. The deal was even blocked by the UK as late as April 2023 but was eventually given the green light and the acquisition finally happened in October 2023.

While the major gaming acquisition was a disruptive time for the company and for Kotick at the helm, Activision Blizzard had been marred in controversy in the past. In 2019, the company laid off nearly 800 people despite having a record year in 2018.

In 2021, employees at the company staged a walkout following its leadership’s “abhorrent and insulting” response to a lawsuit that exposed serious allegations of sexism and harassment at the company.

The lawsuit described a “frat boy” company culture and said women employees faced “constant sexual harassment”. A two-year investigation into the company alleged that women were held back from promotions for various reasons, including the possibility that they may take maternity leave.

At the time Kotick apologised for the response in a letter to employees, promising “swift action” to prevent further incidents. However, an article in The Wall Street Journal claimed that Kotick new about sexual misconduct allegations for years.

Kotick is not the only organisational change happening within the company. In an internal memo published by The Verge, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said Lulu Meservey, executive vice-president of corporate affairs and chief communications officer will be leaving at the end of January, while Humam Sakhnini, vice-chair of Blizzard and King will depart at the end of December.

“We have an exciting 2024 lineup of games across Activision, Bethesda, Blizzard, King and Xbox Game Studios, and I know that we all look forward to sharing more details with our player communities when the time is right,” Spencer said.

In a post on X, Meservey thanked her team when announcing her last day. “You pulled off things not seen before in comms. This work was hard, but you gave me your best effort always,” she said. “Many of you are here because you upended your lives and careers to come work for me. We assembled the Avengers. I love you guys.”

Bobby Kotick. Image: © Thomas Hawk/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic