It is now official: In a farewell message to employees, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has confirmed that he will be leaving the company.
Kotick’s future with Activision Blizzard came into question almost as soon as Microsoft announced its intention to acquire the company back in January 2022. The decision appeared to be all but made after that deal was finally closed, as Kotick said Xbox boss Phil Spencer had asked him to stay on as CEO “through the end of 2023,” which isn’t generally the sort of timeline you announce if you’re expecting to stick around. But today’s message makes it a done deal.
“As my last day leading this company inches closer, I marvel at how far the talented people at our company have come toward realizing the great potential of games,” Kotick wrote. “You have transformed a hobbyist form of entertainment into the world’s most engaging medium. It has been the privilege of my lifetime to work alongside you as we broadened the appeal of games.
“Perhaps the most important part of my job has been to help bring talented people together, provide the best resources possible, and foster an environment that encourages inspiration, creativity, and unwavering commitment to excellence. I cannot adequately express the pride I have in the people who continue to contribute to our success and all those who have helped throughout my 32 years leading this company.”
Spencer paid tribute to Kotick in an internal memo shared by The Verge, saying Activision Blizzard “has been an enduring pillar” under Kotick’s leadership.
“Whether it’s Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga or any number of other titles, his teams have created beloved franchises and entertained hundreds of millions of players for decades,” Spencer wrote. “I’d like to thank Bobby—for his invaluable contributions to this industry, his partnership in closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition and his collaboration following the close—and I wish him and his family the very best in his next chapter.”
Kotick became involved with Activision in 1990 when he and a partner purchased a stake in the company, which had recently renamed itself to Mediagenic. He changed the name back, and became CEO a few months later. His long tenure has seen the company’s share price increase exponentially, but it’s also been beset with controversy in more recent years. Activision was rocked by a 2021 lawsuit alleging widespread discrimination and sexual harassment at the company, which led to a shocking allegation against Kotick himself that he threatened to have an assistant killed. An Activision rep acknowledged that the threat was “inappropriate” but also “obviously hyperbolic” and that Kotick apologized for it shortly afterward, and that allegation was ultimately withdrawn in the company’s recent $54 million settlement with the California Civil Rights Department (formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing). The settlement also noted the conclusion of Gilbert Casellas, a former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that an investigation determined “there was no widespread harassment or recurring pattern or practice of gender harassment” at the company. Activision Blizzard also set aside another $47 million to address accusations of gender discrimination in pay and promotions.
Still, Kotick seems determined to leave on an upbeat note. “Phil Spencer has appreciated the magic of ABK for decades,” he wrote. “When he approached Brian and me two years ago and proposed acquiring the company, it was immediately obvious that the combination of our businesses would enable us to continue to lead as the list of capable, well-resourced competitors grows.
“Phil shares our values and recognizes our talents. He is passionate about our games and the people who make them. He has bold ambition. As we move into our next exciting chapter, you could not be in better hands. I will always be profoundly grateful to the people who contributed tirelessly to building this company and I am confident you will keep inspiring joy and uniting people through the power of play.”
Kotick didn’t specify exactly when he’ll be leaving Activision Blizzard, but the fair assumption is that December 31 will be the day—although it might technically be December 29, as that’s the last working day of the year.