For $68.7 billion, tech giant Microsoft plans to buy one of the biggest names in video game publishing, with an HR division that has reportedly lost employee trust.
In announcing the deal on January 18, Microsoft recognized the strategic benefit of buying Activision Blizzard, the company behind three $3 billion video game franchises and adding it to Microsoft’s existing gaming arena. It is assumed that everything is going well before the expected closing date of 2023.
Meanwhile, Activision is facing the outcome of a 2021 lawsuit filed by California regulators over alleged incidents of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and gender pay discrimination. The allegations prompted further investigation by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Last October, Activision paid $18 million as part of a consensus decision with the EEOC, although the California Department of Employment Equity is contesting the settlement. Groups of Activision employees went on strike and some, including a group of quality control employees at subsidiary Raven Software, we’re planning to join a union.
The SEC’s company lists list changes such as adding employees and resources to the ethics, compliance, and employee relations teams and withdrawing mandatory arbitration agreements for employee sexual harassment and discrimination claims. Still, public sentiment – and corporate messages – show that there is still a lot of work to be done. Activision’s human resources activities have come under scrutiny, with the DFEH lawsuit claiming the department suffered from a “great lack of trust” and dismissing employee complaints without keeping them confidential.
Between the announcement and the closing of the deal, Microsoft’s communications strategy may also focus specifically on the benefits of the acquisition to Activision’s workforce, Ramirez said, as well as any major short-term changes to pay plans, bonuses, and benefits.