Aug 20, 2021 - Technology

The machine rumbles on

"Call of Duty Vanguard." Image: Activision Blizzard

"Call of Duty Vanguard." Image: Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard is full steam ahead in hyping the next "Call of Duty," even as negative publicity about an anti-discrimination lawsuit persists.

Why it matters: California’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard led to worldwide headlines and a walkout several weeks ago, but time tends to be the enemy of persistent scrutiny.

What's happening: Activision is in full-on prep mode for the big fall season.

  • Yesterday was sort of a “Call of Duty” holiday, with the official trailer reveal of November’s “Call of Duty Vanguard” and the kickoff of the Call of Duty League’s 2021 seasonal finals.
  • Today is also the start of a public beta for Blizzard’s big fall release, “Diablo II: Resurrected.”

Meanwhile, Activision has quieted down about its troubles.

  • A check of court records shows the company has yet to officially respond to the lawsuit from California’s Department of Fair Employment & Housing, which was filed a month ago today.
  • It had initially responded to the lawsuit harshly, calling it “distorted,” then saw its CEO strike a softer tone before replacing the leadership at Blizzard in advance of a quarterly call with investors.

But… workers who have formed a group called “A Better ABK” (ABK = the company branches Activision, Blizzard and King) say the company has failed to address specific demands made at the walkout.

  • Those demands include an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in employee contracts, improved talent recruiting that emphasizes diversity, and publication of compensation data.
  • “Their silence is taken as refusal at this point,” current Blizzard test analyst Jessica Gonzalez tells Axios.

On Tuesday, Gonzalez publicly shared a message she said an in-house recruiter sent her on LinkedIn, apparently in reference to articles and messages she'd been posting online about problems at the company.

  • It read, in part: “Some of the articles that you are sharing freak candidates out…. Can you please share what we are doing as a company to eliminate such toxic behavior?”
  • She didn’t respond. “I was kind of in shock,” she says.
  • Regarding this incident, a company rep told Axios: “We support employees’ right to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation.”

What’s next: The games are coming, of course — not that there was any doubt — and the impact of new leadership at Blizzard is still in the wait-and-see phase for workers there.

  • A meeting between the judge and the parties, should it continue to move to a trial, is set for Dec. 9.
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