2024 is starting off strong: The controversial Bobby Kotick, former CEO of Activision Blizzard King, is no longer heading up the Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch 2 publisher. We knew this was going to happen—shortly after Microsoft completed its massive $68 billion purchase of ActiBlizz, the company announced that Kotick would finish out the year in his role before activating his alleged $15 million golden parachute.
Then, shortly before the holiday break, it was revealed that Kotick would step down a few days early on December 29. He even penned a goodbye letter. On the last day of his 32-year tenure, social media weighed in on his legacy (which includes accusations of contributing to a toxic, discriminatory workplace environment, writing a tone-deaf email pretending to be a woman at ActiBlizz responding to those accusations, and costing the Overwatch 2 dev team “months of development”). Some of his former employees weighed in, too.
“Breaking my silence to share a fun fact: when we planned OW2’s Steam launch, my team warned (months in advance) that we’re going to be review-bombed. We begged for more information, more details, and more resources to help us with the anticipated influx, all flatly denied,” wrote former senior manager of community development at ActiBlizz Andy Belford on X (formerly Twitter). “Moderation of steam was put on the community team (not a function of community at Blizz), despite my refusal to want to expose members of my team to that level of toxic content/posts. When asked whose decision it was to launch on Steam with no additional help: Bobby.”
Overwatch 2 released on Steam on August 10, where it was immediately review-bombed by frustrated fans of the series. For a while, it was the worst-rated game on the platform, though it has since moved to the second-worst spot.
Belford continued on X, saying that Kotick’s handling of the Steam launch was “only one example of the culture [he] bred at AB.” “Shit flowed downstream…” he alleged, “Usually landing on the lowest paid and most overworked individuals. Management was too busy reacting to wildly vacillating direction and decisions that made zero sense.”
Christina Pollock, a former programmer at Demonware (a subsidiary of Actiblizz), also shared her experience working on the Call of Duty franchise. “Bobby’s decisions made our games worse,” she said on X, before referencing the 2021 Wall Street Journal investigation, where it was alleged that Kotick left a voicemail on his then-assistant’s phone in 2006 threatening to have her killed. According to Pollock, the Journal investigation dropped just before Thanksgiving of that year, right around when Kotick “personally” gifted employees extra days off.
Kotaku has reached out to Blizzard for comment.
While it’s nice to see that former employees feel more comfortable speaking out against Kotick, it’s important to remember that the man left ActiBlizz virtually unscathed and with a handsome paycheck. Less of that in 2024, please.