News of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard grabbed headlines for many reasons: the nearly $70 billion deal was historical and, more notably, the gaming company has faced intense scrutiny in recent years.
Last July, a lawsuit claimed that Activision Blizzard thrived on “frat boy” culture and consistently ignored harassment complaints made by female workers. This led to staged walkouts, mass public condemnation, calls for CEO Bobby Kotich to step down, and a push from Activision-owned gaming studios to unionize following a lack of transparency in recent layoffs.
As a result, many wonder what Microsoft will do once it inherits this baggage.
“It says that the profit motive trumps those potential liabilities,” said Y-Vonne Hutchinson, founder of inclusion consultancy firm ReadySet. “It says, ‘We’re willing to bring on this company that has a ton of cultural problems — where there’s rape allegations, where there’s allegations of deeply entrenched gender discrimination, sexual harassment -— we’re willing to bring that into the fold having it be unresolved.’”
Hutchinson added that Kotick would greatly benefit from the acquisition, which some anticipate could be upwards of $390 million when the deal closes in 2023.
However, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that the company is making culture its “number one priority” in wake of these concerns and admitted that there will be “significant work to do in order to continue to build a culture where everyone can do their best work.”
A recent statement from Activision Blizzard spokesperson Jessica Taylor said the company has taken measures to improve their workplace culture, including changing their leadership, adopting a “zero-tolerance harassment policy,” and expanded its employee relations and compliance teams.
Microsoft’s strategy to push these changes further are less clear though. Without laying out distinct policies that will directly address the issues plaguing ActivisionBlizzard, employees will likely be emboldened to take action and speak out as culture increasingly becomes a top priority for many professionals.