Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has been hemorrhaging subscription numbers for quite some time, especially in the last few weeks after a large number of World of Warcraft refugees started transitioning over to the increasingly popular Final Fantasy 14. At the same time, unverified leaks started circulating on the internet, shedding light on the situation inside the company that could best be described as catastrophic.
As if Activision Blizzard didn’t have enough to worry about already, with them betting on Twitch World of Warcraft views to help them boost their player count, they were just hit with a lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) over harassment of women in the workplace. According to the lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Activision Blizzard fosters a “frat boy” culture where female employees are subjected to harassment, discrimination, and unequal pay.
This lawsuit comes after a two-year investigation by the DFEH, but the allegations against Activision Blizzard are yet to be proven in court.
Is Blizzard a Sinking Ship?
The horrible allegations stated in the lawsuit against Blizzard could be the last straw for this gaming giant. The reputation that Blizzard built decades ago has slowly been tarnished as the years went by, to the point where fans no longer recognize Blizzard as the company that it once was. Although they report record earnings, the player numbers and the overall quality of their games has certainly gone downhill.
Not to mention the massive layoffs that the company did not that long ago, and the controversial bonuses awarded to the top executives within Activision. All of this has contributed to the decline of Blizzard in the eyes of the public, and at this point in time, Blizzard probably find themselves in the worst position yet. They’ve had their fair share of scandals in recent times, including the Blitzchung controversy, but all of those were eventually forgotten. However, this new lawsuit looks to be something entirely different and much more serious.
It’s almost ironic that a company whose main core value is “every voice matters” now finds itself being sued over harassment, discrimination, and silencing of those same voices within their own workplace. While these allegations are yet to be proven in court, it’s still very concerning that this comes from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing who have spent two years investigating this issue. This is a massive PR nightmare, and one that will most certainly result in heavy casualties for Activision Blizzard.
The state agency DFEH has released a report detailing all the findings from their two-year investigation, and some of the information found inside is truly disturbing.
DFEH’s report claims that the workplace in Blizzard was something akin to a frat house, where the male employees would do the following:
“drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”
The report also states that female employees make around 20% of the total workforce in Blizzard. Stories of women being held back from promotions, harassed even during pregnancy, and being kicked out of lactation rooms to free up space for the male colleagues is just scratching the surface.
The worst case mentioned was probably of a female Activision Blizzard employee who took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor. According to the report, she was subjected to intense sexual harassment which led to her unfortunate end.
With all of this now being out in the open, everyone turned towards Activision Blizzard in anticipation of their response which came soon after. Blizzard pretty much denied the allegations and stated the following:
” The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. “
It’s not looking good for Blizzard. Their official statement doesn’t really help their case either, as it seems as if they’re trying to shift the blame on the DFEH.
In any case, this entire event has fueled the fire within Activision Blizzard and their community, and it doesn’t seem like this will go away that easily. Still, we’ll have to wait until the matter is settled in court before we’ll have the full picture, as well as the final verdict.