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Xbox Head Phil Spencer Joins Sony in Criticism of Activision Blizzard, ‘Evaluating Relationship’ With the Publisher

Following PlayStation boss Jim Ryan sending out an email to staff criticizing Activision Blizzard’s handling of recent allegations about Bobby Kotick, Xbox head Phil Spencer has followed suit. Spencer’s email to Xbox staff, as seen and verified by Bloomberg, says that he and the leadership team at Xbox are “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” from Activision Blizzard. Spencer also referenced the Wall Street Journal report from this week about Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s knowledge of sexual harassment, intervening on behalf of abusers, and mistreating women himself.

In the email, Spencer says that he is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments,” which shows a level of action that we didn’t necessarily see in the email from Jim Ryan—though Sony’s deals with Activision could leave their hands tied, making immediate actions more difficult. Some have noticed, however, that Sony removed Call of Duty: Vanguard from the big featured games banner on the PlayStation Store site.

“This type of behavior has no place in our industry,” Spencer said, drawing a firm line in his criticism of Activision Blizzard, even as the Activision Blizzard board of directors continues to back Kotick’s leadership amid the allegations. What kinds of further actions this criticism may lead to remains to be seen. Noting that PlayStation removed Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation Store for six months shortly after it launched, a precedent has been set for the platform holders to potentially cease selling Activision Blizzard titles. Whether or not things will go that far is unknown. With the big Warzone Pacific update bringing the new Caldera map, as well as the launch of Vanguard’s Season One on December 2, it will be very interesting to see how all parties handle the situation in the coming weeks.

In a statement regarding the criticisms from both Spencer and Ryan, Activision Blizzard said:

We respect all feedback from our valued partners and are engaging with them further. We have detailed important changes we have implemented in recent weeks, and we will continue to do so. 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.

Bloomberg also notes that Activision Blizzard’s stock is down more than 10% since the Wall Street Journal story hit earlier this week. JPMorgan Chase has also pulled its recommendation for the stock, saying that the controversy brings a level of risk without any clear picture on how long it will persist. If Sony and/or Microsoft do take more drastic actions against Activision Blizzard, it will almost certainly continue to send the publisher’s stock spiraling.

Additionally, around 1000 employees (and growing) have signed a petition demanding the ousting of Kotick, with a replacement to be selected without the CEO involved in the selection process. Activision Blizzard employs somewhere in the ballpark of 9,500 people, meaning that more than 10% of the entire company is making known their public request that Kotick leave.

[Source: Bloomberg]