Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has announced he’s stepping down from his position on December 29. The news comes two months after Microsoft officially completed its acquisition of the developer/publisher.
While it was previously announced Kotick would remain as CEO throughout 2023 to help ease the Microsoft/Activision transition, it had been believed (though not confirmed) that he would step down on January 1, 2024. Although his actual departure date is only a few days earlier, it means Activision Blizzard will be kicking off 2024 without Kotick at the helm for the first time in over 30 years.
Microsoft has not yet named Kotick’s replacement. According to The Verge, several other Activision executives will be departing the company through March, including vice chairman of Blizzard and King Humam Sakhnini and chief communications officer Lulu Meservey, who leave in December and January, respectively.
For now, the remaining leadership at Activision Blizzard, such as Vice Chairman Thomas Tippl, Blizzard president Mike Ybarra, and King president Tjodolf Sommestad will report to the recently restructured top brass at Microsoft Gaming, namely its president of game content and studios, Matt Booty.
Kotick sent the following email to employees addressing his upcoming departure:
Over the years, my passion for video games has often been attributed to Pitfall!, River Raid, and Kaboom!. I love those Atari 2600 games, but the game that first captured my imagination was Mystery House, developed by Roberta and Ken Williams. I played it on a borrowed Apple II night after night while in college at the University of Michigan.
Mystery House was a text adventure with some primitive sprite-based graphics. (Fittingly, we now own Mystery House and the company that published it, Sierra On Line.) The world in which the game was played was largely left to the player’s imagination. I envisioned rich, vast worlds with all sorts of interactive, animated life that would enable players to fulfill their varied aspirations—all in a simulated universe that offered unlimited possibilities for challenge, connection, and fun.
Forty years later, 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. 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.
We are now part of the world’s most admired company. That isn’t an accident.
Phil Spencer has appreciated the magic of ABK for decades. 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.
With gratitude and appreciation,
Kotick became Activision CEO in 1991 and has spearheaded the company’s growth into one of the biggest publishers in the industry. Most notably, he led the acquisition of Vivendi Games, which led to the merger with Blizzard in 2008. Despite the massive financial success he engineered for the company, Kotick has been criticized for oversaturating the market with popular franchises such as Call of Duty and Guitar Hero. Most recently, he came under fire during Activision Blizzard’s sexual abuse/discrimination scandal that began in the summer of 2021, where he was accused of ignoring a number of employee harassment complaints for years, leading to many employees and fans to call for his resignation.
In an email to Activision Blizzard staff discussing the organizational changes shared by The Verge, Xbox head Phil Spencer had this to say about Kotick’s departure.
Under Bobby’s watch, Activision Blizzard in its many incarnations has been an enduring pillar of video games. 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. 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.
What do you think of Bobby Kotick’s departure and what do you think it means for Activision Blizzard going forward? Let us know in the comments.