Activision Blizzard continues to face pressure from all sides after an explosive lawsuit was made public last week. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed suit against Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment at the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher. Activision Blizzard’s official response to the suit accuses the DFEH of “distorted […] and false” descriptions and insists the picture painted is “is not the Blizzard workplace of today.” An open letter objecting to the official response was signed by thousands of current and former Acti-Blizz employees, and a walkout was staged on Wednesday. Acti-Blizz CEO Bobby Kotick would eventually apologize for the company’s initial response, calling it “tone deaf.”
It isn’t just the government and Activision Blizzard’s own employees that are unhappy with the company, as GamesIndustry.biz reports shareholders have launched an investigation as well. Said investigation is being conducted by shareholder rights law firm Robbins LLP, who will be looking to see if the company violated the securities exchange act and “breached their fiduciary duties to the company” via their mismanagement. Activision Blizzard stock prices have indeed dropped around 7 percent since news of the DFEH lawsuit broke.
Meanwhile, news of Activision Blizzard’s legal woes have reached the mainstream, with a full story in the New York Times. For the most part, the NYT repeats details we already know, but it also includes new anecdotes from former Acti-Blizz employees. In one case, a female employee says she was passed over for opportunities after declining to take drugs with her manager and was later pressed on what kind of pornography she likes by another manager (or possibly the same manager, it isn’t entirely clear). Another woman reported being pressured to have sex with an executive only weeks after her boyfriend died. Both also reported discrimination when it came to pay and/or promotions.
With the eyes of the government, shareholders, media, and fans on Activision Blizzard, it doesn’t seem like this story will fade away like so many other industry scandals. The next steps, and whether Activision Blizzard commits to real, meaningful change, remains to be seen, but we’ll keep you updated.