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Activision leadership now under fire from Xbox, PlayStation bosses

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Internal memos from console executives criticize CEO Bobby Kotick and Activision’s corporate governance

Annual Gaming Industry Conference E3 Takes Place In Los Angeles
The Xbox and PlayStation booths at E3 2015.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Activision’s leadership is facing criticism from its two biggest console partners, PlayStation and Xbox, over the company’s handling of a sexual harassment and discrimination scandal that has festered over the past five months.

Bloomberg earlier reported that Jim Ryan, Sony’s chief executive for PlayStation, sent a note to employees referencing the story’s latest developments on Tuesday, and said Activision Blizzard “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.”

Then, on Thursday, Xbox boss Phil Spencer also messaged his employees about The Wall Street Journal’s report on Nov. 16, saying he and others on the management team are “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” at Activision Blizzard.

On Tuesday, the Journal reported that Activision chief Bobby Kotick, despite what he’d told his company’s board of directors, in fact knew of allegations of employee sexual misconduct, including a rape allegation, and minimized the problem to Activision’s corporate governance.

The report also said that, following the Journal’s inquiry regarding a 2017 sexual harassment claim against Dan Bunting, the co-head of Call of Duty developer Treyarch, Bunting quit the studio. The Journal said that Activision’s original internal probe of the matter, which recommended that Bunting be fired, ended with Kotick intervening to save his job.

Spencer, said Bloomberg, is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.” Ryan’s email to PlayStation workers did not explicitly say the company was examining its business with Activision, which publishes huge franchises like Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Diablo on consoles.

The internal emails, seen by Bloomberg, come to light as more than 1,000 Activision Blizzard workers endorsed a petition demanding Kotick’s resignation. A public petition, signed by those who do not work for the company, has swelled to more than 13,000 signatures, too.

[Disclosure: Casey Wasserman is on the board of directors for Activision Blizzard as well as the board of directors of Vox Media, Polygon’s parent company.]