Phil Spencer discusses Xbox’s relationship with Activision Blizzard and dealing with problematic studios

In an audio interview with Kara Swisher New York Times, Xbox head Phil Spencer addressed various topics surrounding the Xbox brand, including his company’s response to Activision Blizzard’s numerous ongoing sexual harassment, assault and sex discrimination lawsuits. Spencer previously told his staff in an open letter that leadership is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing positive adjustments.” He clarified what that means, and what the publisher has about The bigger idea of ​​maintaining relationships with partners involved in workplace disputes.

When asked how exactly Xbox was changing its business practices with Activision, Spencer said he couldn’t discuss the specifics publicly, saying only, “We’ve changed the way we work with them, and they know that.”

He went on to say that Xbox’s mission isn’t to “virtue shaming” other studios, acknowledging that its own track record on these issues is “not spotless.” Spencer specifically presented Xbox’s 2016 Game Developers Conference Ball, which featured half-naked female performers, an event he later. He said the situation was a catalyst for the team to get better. Because of this, Spencer said he wanted to use the lessons to focus on helping companies improve their cultures, rather than punishing them harshly.

“And I’m really, honestly putting most of my energy into that area. And any partners 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 do and build, I’d rather do that than engage in any kind of finger-pointing with other companies. ”

“I don’t think my job is to punish other companies,” Spencer said.

Swisher then pressed Spencer about how Xbox could reconcile with a company whose allegations included multiple counts of sexual assault against female employees, including rape, and a reported suicide for sexual harassment. Especially when CEO Bobby Kotick has apparently been aware of these issues for years and has done little to address them, while withholding details from shareholders.

In terms of responses to these questions in a broader sense, Spencer believes that change is needed by keeping lines of communication open so workers feel safe to report toxic behavior.​​​ “It’s a cultural effort to do this, how do you build that trust so that when people report it, when they raise their hand on the topic that’s going on, they don’t face repercussions,” Spencer said. . “Instead, they will see action.”

Referring to Bobby Kotick’s allegations, Spencer explained: “I would say that it’s clearly not our position to judge who the CEO is as far as individuals in leadership roles at other companies are concerned. Like, the CEO is determined by shareholders and Chosen by the board. At Xbox, I know who I’m accountable to in terms of business and operations. Here’s my team, my chain of stewardship. That’s what we continue to focus on, is trying to grow. Whether that’s what we share again we Experience with other partners, whether we can help them with their own journey or what’s happening in our own team.”

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 views on virtual worlds, the impact of the pandemic on Xbox sales ( Spoiler: very good), and gaming addiction.

As mentioned, 2021 will not be kind to Activision Blizzard. In the past few months, it has been battling major lawsuits from the state of California and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (with which it recently settled), as well as employee exodus due to abuse of perpetrators or victims. The publisher is also dealing with a weeks-long strike at Call of Duty support studio Raven Software due to QA team layoffs.

[Source: The New York Times]