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

In an audio interview with Kara Swisher’s New York Times, Xbox head Phil Spencer spoke on a variety of topics surrounding the Xbox brand, including his company’s response to the myriad of ongoing sexual harassment, assault, and gender discrimination lawsuits at Activision Blizzard. Spencer previously told his employees in an open letter that leadership is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.” He clarified what that means as well as the publisher’s larger philosophy of maintaining relationships with controversial partners in the workplace.

When asked to describe exactly how Xbox has changed its way of doing business with Activision, Spencer said he couldn’t discuss specifics publicly, only saying, “We’ve changed the way we do it. I do certain things with them and they’re aware of it.”

He went on to say that Xbox’s mission is not to “insult” other studios, acknowledging that their own record on such matters is “not without blemish”. Spencer specially delivered the Xbox Game Developers Conference 2016 dance party featuring semi-nude female performers, an event he later apologized for. He said that situation was the catalyst for the team to get better. Because of this, Spencer says he wants to use those lessons to focus on helping companies improve their cultures rather than punishing them harshly.

“And I really, honestly, I use most of my energy in that space. 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’ve done and what we’ve built, I’d rather do that than get into any kind of wave at other companies out there.”

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

Activision Blizzard Strike 2021

Swisher then pressed Spencer on how Xbox could reconcile business with a company whose allegations included multiple counts of sexual assault against female employees, including rape, as well as a case reported as a suicide due to sexual harassment. Especially when CEO Bobby Kotick has obviously known about these problems for many years and did little to address them while obscuring the details from shareholders.

In terms of addressing these issues more broadly, Spencer believes change requires making workers feel safe to report malicious behavior by maintaining open lines of communication. . “And to get there, it’s a cultural effort in terms of how you build that trust so that people feel like when they blow the whistle, when they raise their hand about the topics going on, that they will not face the consequences. “Rather, they’ll see the action.”

Explaining Bobby Kotick’s allegations, Spencer explained, “I’m going to talk about individuals who are holding leadership positions at other companies, obviously it’s our position to judge who the CEO is. . Like, the CEOs are chosen by the shareholders and the board of directors. At Xbox, I know the people for whom I am responsible for the business and operations. That’s my team here, my chain of command. And that’s what we continue to focus on, that’s trying to grow. And whether it’s us sharing, again, the experiences that we have with other partners, if we can help them on their own journeys or in terms of things happening on our team, we. ”

The full interview is well worth reading/listening as Spencer also discusses Xbox’s approach to combating online player toxicity, using Xbox Live as a platform for free speech, opinion about the metaverse, the pandemic’s impact on Xbox sales (spoiler: it’s so good), and gaming as an addiction.

As mentioned earlier, 2021 is not looking good for Activision Blizzard. It has spent the past several months battling major lawsuits from the State of California and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the body it recently dealt with), as well as the expulsion of employees, for being perpetrators. abuse or be its victim. The publisher is also dealing with a the strike lasted for weeks at Call of Duty support studio Raven Software fired by the QA team.

[Source: The New York Times]

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