November 18, 2021
Welcome back to Axios Gaming! Megan here with a lot of news.
Today's edition is 1,252 words, a 4.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Kotick resignation calls intensify
More than 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees are calling for CEO Bobby Kotick to resign in an open letter published today.
The big picture: Pressure is mounting both inside the company and across the industry for Kotick to step away from his position.
- "We, the undersigned, no longer have confidence in the leadership of Bobby Kotick as the CEO of Activision Blizzard," the petition reads.
- "The information that has come to light about his behaviors and practices in the running of our companies runs counter to the culture and integrity we require of our leadership — and directly conflicts with the initiatives started by our peers," the petition continues.
- ABK Workers Alliance is also calling for supporters to sign a petition of its own.
Flashback: On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct at the company, despite claims to the contrary. Over 100 employees staged a walkout, following the report.
- Xbox and PlayStation heads Phil Spencer and Jim Ryan have sent emails to staff critical of Activision Blizzard leadership, according to Bloomberg. Both companies are pressuring Activision Blizzard, with Xbox saying it is "evaluating" its relationship with the game maker "and making proactive adjustments."
Inside the company, multiple sources describe a mood of anger, frustration and exhaustion. These sources asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. "A lot of people don't want to be here," one source told Axios.
- "We keep getting traumatized every week," said another. "There's something new coming down the pipeline that's not good and our leadership just continues to mishandle everything and mistreat us."
2. The push to unionize
Internally, Activision Blizzard employees are continuing to rally support to move toward building a union.
Why it matters: Despite being a hot topic within the video game industry for years, no major U.S.-based company has managed to unionize.
- One Activision Blizzard employee called the WSJ report "a tipping point" to Axios, adding that morale and faith in the company have been eroded.
- "It's almost as if they're begging us to unionize."
- Some employees wanted to continue walkouts this week but say they're unable to do so without the support of a union. "That becomes an official strike," one said. Because of the potential financial ramifications of such a move, "we're not really equipped to go on strike."
- Employees still on the fence about unionizing fear for their jobs. "We can't really afford to just say, I'm willing to put my entire job on the line, or be blacklisted from the industry as a whole in order to support the union effort. ... A lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck."
Activision Blizzard has not acknowledged the existence of ABK Workers Alliance, the growing collective of employees pushing for better conditions within the company, some employees say.
- “They play nice with us," said one employee, calling it a union-busting tactic of seeming to be supportive of actions like walkouts by still paying them for the day and reassuring them there won't be retaliation. "They don’t have to do that ... but it's to their benefit to try and put water on the flames.”
- An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Axios "the company is consistently listening to and engaging with all of its employees on a wide range of important topics in a number of venues, including many group meetings just this week."
- Employees have already accused Activision Blizzard of trying to undermine its efforts by hiring WilmerHale — which is notorious for union busting — in July to reform its internal practices.
What's next: Employees say they will continue to build support internally for a union.
- "I don't know if I'd be ready to trust corporate again without a union behind me," one source said. "I think, if they wanted those who were hurt to feel safe again immediately, they could make a public promise to remain neutral and not interfere in any future organizing efforts."
- "This walkout isn't the end of this," the source said of Tuesday's demonstration. "It's showing that the employees of Activision Blizzard can mobilize, that we can organize and coordinate. It's a demonstration. We aren't shutting up."
3. Why people buy old games again
This month has been huge for remakes and remasters, with games like "Skyrim," "Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy," "Pokémon Brilliant Diamond" and "Pokémon Shining Pearl."
Why it matters: Players return to old games for a variety of reasons, from nostalgia to convenience.
What they're saying: On Twitter, I ran an informal survey and asked people to weigh in.
- "If it's a game I really love, then the convenience of having it on a new console is nice. If I don't buy the remaster of a game, it's usually because I didn't feel passionately about the first one!"
- "I buy remasters when I haven't played the game before and want to ('Skyrim'), and when the game was so good I miss playing it and want to experience it again with maybe some slightly different gfx ('Mass Effect')."
- "Usually I like when graphics are overhauled to make it easier on the eyes."
- "I’m a sucker for buying remakes/remasters of games I loved simply to continue supporting them. Even if I don’t plan to fully replay, it is like paying for a fancy hardcover version of your favorite book."
But my personal favorite: "Playing a remaster means I don't have to spend time learning a new UX and getting invested emotionally in an unfamiliar story. It's a safe bet, even if it means I might miss out on a new thrill. It's like dating your ex!"
4. Need to know
🦶 Upcoming Kung Fu game "Sifu" is moving its release date up two weeks to Feb. 8. That's unusual but also part of the continued jostling around what's scheduled to be an unusually loaded month of releases.
😲 Nintendo is backing official 2022 tournaments for "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" for Switch and "Super Smash Bros. Melee" for GameCube. The latter was released 20 years ago but has remained popular with competitive players.
🎮 "Halo Infinite" studio 343 Industries is rolling out changes to make it less tedious to unlock cosmetic rewards in the free multiplayer part of the game.
5. Worthy of your attention
Bots Are Ruining Your Chance of Buying a PS5 and Xbox Series This Holiday (And What to Do About It) [Taylor Lyles, IGN]
Despite the number of bots getting away with inventory, there have been some measures taken by retailers in an effort to better your chances of buying a PS5 or Xbox Series X this holiday season. The leading third-party retailers selling these consoles in North America are Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Target, and Walmart. Each has its own restocking methods with some variances, but the restock patterns differentiate between the retailers.
6. Happy 20th, GameCube
Nintendo’s cute console with a handle was released in North America 20 years today, Stephen writes.
- I still remember going to a subterranean GameStop under Rockefeller Center to pick up my pre-ordered GameCube. I was the only person queued up who was grabbing a purple one.
- I loved the little thing, but the slow pace of releases and the increase in my own disposable income snapped my streak of only playing Nintendo home consoles.
- Within a year, I also bought a PS2.
My favorite GameCube games:
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I would not recommend getting back together with your ex.