One of the most visible workers-rights groups for the video game industry is starting a social-media campaign to force Activision Blizzard to fire chief executive officer Bobby Kotick. Game Workers Unite began the #FireBobbyKotick campaign on Twitter today following a massive round of layoffs at the Call of Duty publisher.
Activision reported record revenues for its fiscal 2018 yesterday before revealing plans to cut 800 jobs. The incongruity between the publisher’s financial performance and how it is treating workers did not end there. Activision also hiked up its cash dividend by 9 percent. And it reiterated plans for a stock buyback program to pass on wealth to investors.
The publisher justified the layoffs by saying that it could make more money and that it doesn’t expect to make quite as much in 2019. But Game Workers Unite doesn’t believe those excuses are valid when Activision executives continue to rake in millions of dollars.
“Upending 800 workers’ lives while raking in millions in bonuses for you and your c-suite buddies isn’t leadership; it’s theft,” the Game Workers organization stated in a tweet. “We, the workers of Activision and their friends, have had enough. Join us in saying that it’s time to #FireBobbyKotick.”
I have reached out to both Game Workers Unite and Activision Blizzard for further comment.
Why fire Bobby Kotick?
Kotick has served as chief executive officer since 1991, and many people view him as the quintessential American video game executive. And in that role, organizations like Game Workers Unite see him as pillaging the value of workers for his own gain.
“The 800 workers who helped with community management, marketing
games, running esports, legal, and so much more are all far more
valuable than the CEO,” said Game Workers Unite. “When making the
decision to cut someone from Activision, we’d choose to
#FireBobbyKotick every time.”
Even former Xbox boss Seamus Blackley says that Kotick has stood opposed to the fair treatment of workers.
“Disappointing,” Blackley wrote on Twitter about Activision’s layoffs. “I have a long history battling [Bobby Kotick] for developer’s rights [at various companies], and this is sadly par for the course.”
Game Workers Unite, however, is clear that it does not stand in opposition to all company executives. It just believes that Kotick has crossed a line into immoral and unethical behavior. To make this point, it holds up the late Nintendo executive Satoru Iwata.
“Iwata, as CEO of Nintendo, cut his own pay during times of trouble to ensure no employees would lose their jobs,” Game Workers Unite wrote on Twitter. “And Activision saw record profits this year. They have no excuse.”
Iwata, beloved Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and many Nintendo executives all took pay cuts in January 2014. In July 2015, Iwata died due to illness. He did not get to witness Nintendo’s Switch-powered resurgence.
Kotick, however, is seemingly in good health. And if his most recent annual pay is any indication, he should could make around $30 million this year.