As the wider gaming world reacts to yesterday’s latest wave of allegations against senior figures at Activision, including the reigning world champion of hubris-before-a-fall, CEO Bobby Kotick, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan expressed his disappointment at Activision’s response. In an email sent to PlayStation staff, Ryan said he felt “disheartened and frankly stunned.”
The email — which Ryan likely wrote knowing it would be immediately leaked to press — has PlayStation’s chief expressing his severe disappointment in Activision’s response to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal revelations. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier reports he has seen the email, quoting Ryan as saying he believes Activision “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.”
Apparently, PlayStation “outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern,” Ryan writes, “and to ask them how they plan to address the claims made in the article.” He continues, “We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”
Said response began with Kotick’s extremely poorly-judged decision to send a video to Activision staff. In it, he told them how dreadful the WSJ piece was, and how wonderful it is to work at Activision — a company whose first woman in a leadership position resigned a few weeks back after barely a couple of months in the job, because of being “tokenized, marginalised, and discriminated against.”
This was then followed by an equally ill-advised public statement, in which Activision had the frankly deranged audacity to call itself “the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace” months after the California lawsuit described an employee suicide.
Then, just in case that weren’t enough, Activision’s board of directors issued a statement. In it, they responded to the new allegations that claimed Kotick knew about all the workplace issues he’d previously said to have never heard of, by saying, “The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”
So yes, Jim Ryan certainly has a good point when he says that Activision “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.” But it raises the rather obvious question: what now? What is Sony or PlayStation actually going to do, if anything?
Right now, the only thing that’s meaningful to anyone working below the corporate level at Activision is pressure on Kotick to resign. And the only thing that will push its board of directors and major shareholders to make that happen is financial threat. Clearly relying on an iota of human decency from anyone among their number should have been long abandoned.
Ryan’s words are designed to look like someone giving a shit about something, guaranteed to reach the press, but without being seen deliberately issuing a public statement. It’s calculated, and arguably useless. If Jim Ryan really gives a damn about Kotick’s abysmal failure to resign, he needs to a) call for that directly, and b) at the very least insinuate financial consequences for Activision Blizzard.
The whole industry needs to step up at this point, and demand Kotick’s head. It needs to be utterly implausible that he might keep his position. Clearly the wretched man intends to weather this storm, hope it will blow over, and wait for the world’s attention to move on to something else. We need the likes of Jim Ryan to stop that from happening, not just hoping for some positive coverage and industry kudos by a judiciously leaked internal mail.
We’ve contacted both Sony and Activision regarding this story, but have not heard back at the time of publication.