Phil Spencer discusses Xbox’s relationship with Activision Blizzard and handling problematic studies

In an audio interview with Kara Swisher by New York Times, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer spoke on a number of topics surrounding the Xbox brand, including his company’s responses to the countless ongoing lawsuits about sexual harassment, abuse and gender discrimination at Activision Blizzard. Spencer had previously told his staff in an open letter that management “evaluated all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and made ongoing proactive adjustments.” He clarified what that means, as well as the publisher’s larger philosophy of maintaining relationships with partners involved in workplace controversies.

When asked to describe exactly how Xbox has changed its business practices with Activision, Spencer stated that he could not publicly discuss the details, simply saying, “We have changed how we do certain things with them, and they are aware of that.”

He went on to say that the Xbox’s mission is not about “shame” other studies, and admitted that its own record in such cases “is not immaculate.” Spencer specifically brings the Xbox’s 2016 Game Developers Conference dance party, which featured half-naked female artists, an event he later apologized for. He states that the situation acted as a catalyst for the team to get better. Because of this, Spencer says he wants to use these experiences to focus on helping companies improve their culture instead of punishing them severely.

“And I really, honestly, spend most of my energy in that space. And any of the partners that are out there if I can learn from them or I can help with the journey we’ve been on. [at] Xbox by sharing what we’ve made and what we’ve built, I’d much rather do that than get into some sort of finger-logging on other companies out there. ”

ā€œI donā€™t think my job is out there to punish other companies,ā€ Spencer says.

Activision Blizzard Strike 2021

Swisher then pressured Spencer on how the Xbox could reconcile dealing with a company whose allegations include multiple cases of sexual assault on female employees, including rape, as well as a reported case of suicide due to sexual harassment. Especially when CEO Bobby Kotick apparently knew about these issues for years and did little to resolve them while blurring the details for shareholders.

In terms of responding to these issues in a broader sense, Spencer believes that change requires employees to feel confident in reporting toxic practices by maintaining open lines of communication. “And to get there, it’s a cultural effort on how to build that trust so that people feel that when they whistle, when they raise their hand on issues that are going on, that they will not face consequences,” Spencer says. . “They would rather see action.”

In relation to Bobby Kotick’s claims, Spencer explains: “I would say that when it comes to people in senior positions in other companies, it is obviously not our position to judge who the CEOs are. Just as CEOs are elected by shareholders and boards. At Xbox, I know who I’m responsible for here in terms of business and operations. It’s my teams here, my management chain. And that’s what we continue to focus on is trying to grow. And whatever whether it is us who again share the experiences we have with other partners, if we can help them on their own journey or on the things that happen in our own teams. ā€

The full interview is worth reading / listening, as Spencer also discusses Xbox’s approach to combating online player toxicity, using Xbox Live as a platform for free speech, his opinion on the meta-verse, the pandemic’s effect on Xbox sales (spoiler: it has been very well), and play as an addiction.

As previously mentioned, 2021 had not been kind to Activision Blizzard. It has spent the past many months fighting major lawsuits by the State of California and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the latter of which it recently ruled), as well as an emigration of employees, either due to being perpetrators of abuse or as victims of that. The publisher is also dealing with a week-long strike at Call of Duty’s support studio Raven Software due to QA team layoffs.

[Source: The New York Times]

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