Activision Blizzard’s most recent Overwatch 2 news continues a troubling trend—announcements that seem to be timed to coincide with the appearance of controversies—as the firm continues to be dogged by negative coverage.
Activision Blizzard has continued to provide announcement dates and information about its upcoming games despite accusations of union-busting, studio walk-outs, and two lawsuits alleging s*xual harassment and discrimination.
Unfortunately, a lot of these announcements seem designed to divert attention away from the myriad problems the company is now dealing with. Activision Blizzard has seen a tremendous wave of controversy over the past year about studio working conditions and the direction of the Santa Monica-based corporation.
After conducting a two-year investigation, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a complaint in July 2021, citing “frat boy culture” and s*xual harassment of female employees.
Activision reached a shockingly meager settlement with the EEOC in March 2022, but in the intervening months, new problems within the organization surfaced, leading to employee walkouts and demands for CEO Bobby Kotick to go down.
Activision Blizzard is happy to remind the public that its studios have largely kept working throughout this time, progressing on much-awaited projects like Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4. However, the timing of this is very suspicious because significant game-related announcements typically occur after news that is bad for the brand of the corporation.
Most recently, a trailer for Overwatch 2’s new hero Sojourn was unveiled on the same day a California attorney in the ongoing Activision lawsuit resigned from the CDFEH and claimed that California Governor Gavin Newsom interfered with the case. Sojourn had previously appeared in promotional materials.
According to Politico, Casey Wasserman, a board member of Activision Blizzard, contributed $100,000 to Newsom’s effort to thwart the recall of California’s governor. For more details see the full post:
Activision Blizzard’s Announcements Detract From Bad Press
Activision Blizzard’s internal operations have become somewhat more transparent in recent years, and some really unpleasant truths have come to light. The firm has encouraged studio conditions where women are harassed, paid unfairly, and ignored when they voice concerns to managers or HR.
One of Activision’s investments, Raven Software, has a crew that has experienced underpayment and a sizable number of layoffs, particularly among quality assurance testers.
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While it seems Kotick may retire after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is finalized, many have called for his departure even sooner. It has been claimed that Kotick has long been aware of the company’s history of s*xual harassment.
It makes sense that Activision Blizzard would try to divert public attention to other topics, and it’s possible that the corporation is purposefully timing announcements to overshadow these reports. The timeframes in question are particularly brought out by a few particular instances.
In addition to the CDFEH and EEOC lawsuits, Activision Blizzard is also being sued for the tragic deἀth of employee Kerri Moynihan. At a work retreat in 2017, Moynihan committed herself. Her parents, who brought the lawsuit this past March, claim that s*xual harassment played a significant role in her deἀth.
Activision Blizzard released Overwatch 2’s open beta in the days after the lawsuit’s filing, which unsurprisingly created a buzz on social media. While it didn’t completely overshadow news of the Moynihan case, it did divert some focus away from it.
Even before the DFEH’s complaint, this existed. During a recognized event in 2019, professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung expressed his support for Hong Kong protesters. Activision Blizzard retaliated by punishing Blitzchung, disqualifying him from future competitions, and taking away his win money.
Despite the vocal opposition from the public, Blizzard only partially lifted Blitzchung’s suspension. Additionally, after the debate, information about Overwatch 2 and its forthcoming BlizzCon 2019 announcement, as well as Diablo 4, leaked.
Is Activision Blizzard Deliberately Timing Announcements?
It’s difficult to help but think if Activision Blizzard is deliberately using its own news to bury the scandal. People linking to Bloomberg’s report suggesting the California Governor’s Office’s role in the recently resolved lawsuit are flooding the comments section of the official Overwatch Twitter account’s tweet about Sojourn.
Introducing Illari ☀️
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) August 10, 2023
This perspective, albeit cynical, appears at least somewhat warranted because the pattern outlined here is already quite persuasive. Some people might find it tempting to believe that large corporations like Activision Blizzard create trailers and reveals for unexpected events like the negative press.
However, the purpose of trailers is to pique interest; even when the press is positive, studios continue to produce new material. The next beta for Overwatch 2 wasn’t built solely to block out talk of lawsuits.
In the face of controversy, developers may find that their desire to showcase their work to audiences conflicts with the general public’s bad view. Activision Blizzard might be announcing things at the right time to counter negative headlines, but everything the firm has revealed almost definitely would have been made regardless of the situation.
The first and most obvious lesson is to avoid letting the fervor and buzz surrounding announcements detract significantly from Activision Blizzard’s grave scandals. It is crucial to hold the corporation accountable for any instances in which it may have let its employees down because it is a titan in the video game industry.
Instead of giving executives multi-million dollar salaries while developers lose their jobs, Activision Blizzard’s record earnings should be used to improve workplace morale and properly pay employees.
The $18 million settlement reached in March doesn’t deal with the company’s problems in any way (notably, it contains a provision allowing Activision Blizzard to delete sexual harassment claims from the claimants’ files), and without internal, structural changes, harassment, and discrimination are likely to persist.
The second lesson is less specific. Teams under Activision Blizzard will continue developing games barring a studio closure, so the existence of these announcements shouldn’t be used against developers despite Activision Blizzard’s apparent willingness to use them to cover up negative press.
At Blizzard’s scale, it takes an incredible amount of time, effort, and labor to create a single game. Although developers, publishers, and players should all applaud this work, it currently cannot escape skepticism, especially since it cannot be disputed that this is a purposeful tactic.
Activision Blizzard could at least afford to time its announcements with a little more consideration as Overwatch 2 approaches, though it is hoped that the corporation starts to experience significant improvements.
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