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PlayStation CEO criticizes Activision’s response to misconduct and harassment allegations

November 17, 2021, 8:19 PM UTC

Sony Group Corp.’s PlayStation chief Jim Ryan criticized Activision Blizzard Inc. Wednesday for the game publisher’s inadequate response to an explosive news article alleging that Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations for years and that he had also mistreated women. 

In an email to employees reviewed by Bloomberg, Ryan linked to the Wall Street Journal’s Tuesday report. He wrote that he and his leadership were “disheartened and frankly stunned to read” that Activision “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.”

“We outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article,” he wrote. “We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”

As one of the video game industry’s biggest console manufacturers, Sony has long had a close relationship with Activision, which produces hits like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. In addition to publishing most of its games on PlayStation consoles, Activision has worked with Sony on elaborate marketing deals. The last few entries in the Call of Duty series, including this year’s Call of Duty: Vanguard, have featured exclusive modes and content for the PlayStation.

Activision is also under fire from its own employees. More than 100 walked out Tuesday and called for Kotick’s resignation. The board issued a statement standing by Kotick. Activision shares fell 2.5% in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

Ryan’s email didn’t specify actions Sony would take against Activision, but Sony has been proactive in the past about removing games from its PlayStation online store when it was unhappy. Last December, Sony pulled the highly-anticipated game Cyberpunk 2077 from its store and offered full refunds to players after the release was riddled with bugs and performed especially poorly in console versions. Sony reinstated the title about six months later.

Ryan emphasized to his staff that Sony Interactive Entertainment “is committed to ensuring our community of developers and gamers feel safe and respected, and providing a secure work environment for every employee.” He called on employees to report instances of harassment or discrimination and promised that any action would be investigated.

Kotick is facing mounting concerns about the direction of the company, including in the form of multiple lawsuits and an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Kotick has apologized for an early reaction from the company that was considered “tone deaf” by staff and has taken measures to clean up the corporate culture, including reducing his salary until new gender goals are met and calling off its biggest annual gaming event, BlizzCon.

But his support is waning. A small group of Activision Blizzard shareholders, accounting for less than 1% of the outstanding stock, said it called for Kotick’s resignation on Wednesday in a letter to the company’s board.

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