Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Ybarra has published a lengthy post outlaying actions the company is taking to improve itself in moving forward. Titled “Putting our teams and players at the forefront of everything we do,” it was posted on the company’s Inside Blizzard blog and lists rebuilding trust as a top priority.
“Our top priority—now and into the future—is the work we are doing to rebuild your trust in Blizzard.”
Rough Times in 2021
To say that Activision Blizzard traversed a rocky road in 2021 would be an understatement. From lawsuits over allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment to the laying off of QA contractors at Raven Software, and a walkout that called for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick, things have been tumultuous, to say the least. Factor in reports of a significant decline in sales for games in its Call of Duty franchise and server issues for Diablo II: Resurrected, which also resulted in another lengthy post, it became clear that the company’s player base was not happy with it.
It was recently announced that Microsoft is purchasing Activision Blizzard. This, no doubt, one of the top events of 2021, has led Mr. Ybarra to comment on the past while laying the groundwork for the future. He said he was encouraged by reading “forums, social posts, and emails from people within and outside of Blizzard” as they voiced their beliefs in “standing up for what is right.” He responded that amid recent challenges, they are listening and “are committed to change.”
Watching Blizzard work as creatively and diligently as we have throughout this challenging time (on top of an ongoing pandemic) has been inspiring. Navigating these challenges, evolving our development processes, and being introspective and looking at how we can improve our culture shows incredible strength and commitment to one another, our work, and to the player communities.
Mr. Ybarra finished his post with a list of steps being taken now and planned for the future. It includes quite a bit of action toward creating a company culture that has a more supportive environment for its employees. Management salaries, including his own, will depend on the success of said plans.
• We’re measuring our executive and management teams directly against culture improvement. This means their (and my own) success and compensation will directly depend on our overall success in creating a safe, inclusive, and creative work environment at Blizzard.
• We’re dedicating more full-time roles and resources to improving our culture. All too often, this important effort falls to employee resource groups, filled with people who already have full-time jobs. A few of the leadership positions we’ve established for this new team include:
• a Culture leader who will help us maintain the best aspects of what we have today, and change and evolve where needed to ensure everyone brings their best self to Blizzard
• a new organizational leader for Human Resources who will build trust, empower our teams, and help foster a safe, positive work environment for everyone
• a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) leader solely focused on our progress across multiple efforts in this area
• We are committed to staffing these teams as a priority.
• We tripled the size of our compliance and investigation teams and have articulated clear accountability for unacceptable behavior. This applies to all employees at Blizzard, including leadership and management.
• We have shared representation data internally with our teams and have set goals around improvement across these metrics.
• We’ve put in place an upward feedback program so that employees have confidence in evaluating management, and we will use this to measure the quality and effectiveness of our managers.
Only time will tell if things at Activision Blizzard will turn around. From its staffing to customer confidence, the longtime publisher has a lot of hard work ahead of it. Additionally, the landscape of game publishing and development has gone through significant changes in the past couple of years, as publishers and studios alike adapt to the ongoing pandemic.