Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, has made a statement that gamers are going to be either laughably annoyed or rather angry at. The CEO game an interview with CNBC wherein he spoke about various issues facing gaming in the modern era. Kotick also remarked on the nature of how political statements have become increasingly partisan, with a focus on how these impact corporate interests.
“I think there are some business people who are incredible examples of character and integrity and principle and have what you see are the great attributes of leadership, and I think that they are incredibly inspiring for me,” he said. “But I think, you know, they do have the right to articulate views and visions and voices about government and policy and politics, and I love engaging with those people.”
He went on to say that the role of companies in various political events must be neutral and fair. “We’re not the operator of the world’s town halls. We’re the operator of the communities that allow you to have fun through the lens of a video game,” said Kotick. The CEO reiterated the he doesn’t have the “right” to express political opinion as a representative of a major company.
This is rather strange of him to say though, given the nature of previous statements he has made, as well as public decisions by Blizzard of an undeniably political nature.
Most infamous of recent times though was the banning of Hearthstone Champion Blitzchung for a stunt in which he openly professed support for Hong Kong protests against China. The banning was eventually commuted, but the damage was done. Blizzard was heavily criticized as a result of the controversy. Blizzard justified the decision by arguing that the platforms of video game broadcasts being inherently political would open the door to more problematic views. This is fine, but what isn’t fine is claiming neutrality as a company when you’re Blizzard and do the things you’ve done.
The whole issue just keeps getting weirder as statements keep being made. Kotick and the rest of the executives at the company got away with firing 800 people despite a profitable year. They also got away with defending aggressive monetization practices. But it’s extremely hard to see how they can actually skate by on these new statements. The perpetuation of crunch and other aggressive practices in the games industry is an inherently political issue. Blizzard cannot play both sides here.