Xbox Boss Not Interested In ‘Virtue Shaming’ Activision

Xbox Boss Not Interested In 'Virtue Shaming' Activision

Xbox manager Phil Spencer stands in front of an Xbox sign wearing a State of Decay shirt.

Photo: Kevork Djansezian (Getty Images)

In November, Xbox director Phil Spencer told staff he was “evaluating all aspects” of Microsoft’s gaming division’s relationship with Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard following a The Wall Street Journal’s explosive report workplace misconduct and cover-ups at the big publisher. Pressed to explain exactly what that meant in a new interview today with The New York Times, Spencer said he was not interested in another company’s “shame virtue”.

Spencer wrote in November email to Xbox teams that he was “disturbed and deeply disturbed by the horrific events and actions” recently highlighted in the Wall Street Journal report, a sentiment he reiterated today in an interview with tech reporter Kara Swisher on his Sway podcast.

“I always feel the people who work in any team, my own teams, other teams,” Spencer said when asked about Activision Blizzard’s ongoing calculation. with reports of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination. “I think people should feel safe and included in whatever workplace they are in. I’ve been in this industry long enough to perhaps feel more responsible for what’s going on in the video game space. And I am saddened and sickened when I hear of work environments that cause so much distress and destruction to individuals and teams.

When Swisher asked in a follow-up how reports on Activision Blizzard had changed Microsoft’s long-standing partnership with the giant video game publisher, Spencer said he couldn’t speak publicly about it.

“We’ve changed the way we do certain things with them, and they realize that,” he said. “But me too, for us as Xbox it’s not about shaming other companies. Xbox’s history is not without blemish.

As an example of Xbox’s problematic past, Spencer referred to a now infamous GDC 2016 party Microsoft has hosted women in schoolgirl outfits dancing on platforms. Spencer apologized for it at the time, and did it again in an interview with Axios. last november. Of them former senior Xbox employees were mentioned in last year’s reports of malpractice at Activision Blizzard, but Microsoft has so far declined to comment.

Spencer has been asked several times by Swisher about ways Xbox would “punish” Activision Blizzard for past incidents at the company, but he remained vague:

Swisher: I don’t mean to be rude, but what’s wrong with punishing them for that? Like, we don’t want to do business with you unless you’ve cleaned up. Now, again, these issues were also back several years ago, but under the same leadership, Bobby Kotick, who is the longtime CEO of Activision.

Spencer: I think in terms of interactions with other companies, the things we choose to do with our brand and our platform, in coordination or not with other companies, is the avenue we need to have. an impact. I would say that when it comes to people in leadership positions in other companies, obviously it’s not up to us to judge who the CEOs are. Like, CEOs are chosen by shareholders and boards of directors. At Xbox, I know who I’m responsible for here in terms of business and operations. These are my teams here, my management chain. And that’s the thing we keep focusing on is trying to grow taller. And whether it’s about sharing, once again, the experiences we have with other partners, if we can help them on their own journey or on things that are happening in our own teams.

Following the Wall Street Journal investigation last November, thousands of Activision Blizzard employees called for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick. A group of workers called the ABK Workers Alliance announced soon after that it was distribute union cards members, while a small group of developers officially went on strike following the announcement of layoffs at Call of Duty: Warzone studio Raven Software.


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