Controversial Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick will depart the company on 29th December, it’s been announced.
Kotick’s reign lasted 32 years, during which time the company became one of the biggest and most influential video games publishers on the planet.
His departure this month is not unexpected – Activision Blizzard had previously confirmed Kotick’s presence only until the end of this year to “ensure a smooth and seamless integration” following Microsoft’s long-winded but ultimately successful $68.7bn acquisition. Now, we know exactly when Kotick leaves and how the company will be shaped without him.
Within Microsoft and under the leadership of Xbox, the majority of Activision’s other executives – including Blizzard president Mike Ybarra – will report directly to the recently-promoted Xbox exec Matt Booty.
But there’s a key promotion for Microsoft exec Jill Braff – an industry veteran with experience at both Nintendo and Sega in the ’90s – to the position of Head of ZeniMax/Bethesda studios. Creative leaders within the Bethesda family of studios – such as Todd Howard – will report in to her.
Bobby Kotick signed off to Activision Blizzard employees today in an email now posted to the company’s blog. In it, he describes his long-term love of games dating back to the text adventures of Roberta and Ken Williams.
“Mystery House was a text adventure with some primitive sprite-based graphics,” Kotick noted. “(Fittingly, we now own Mystery House and the company that published it, Sierra On Line.)”
The outgoing Activision Blizzard boss did not detail his next career moves, but thanked staff and praised Xbox boss Phil Spencer.
“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,” Kotick wrote. “We are now part of the world’s most admired company. That isn’t an accident.
“Phil [Spencer] shares our values and recognises our talents,” Kotick continued. “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.”
In an internal memo to Microsoft staff shared online via The Verge, Spencer confirmed Kotick’s 29th December departure date and wished Kotick and his family “the very best in his next chapter”.
Spencer’s memo confirms the above leadership structure changes and also notes the departure of Lulu Meservey, Activision Blizzard’s outspoken chief communications officer whose commentary via social media was frequently covered in the media during the Microsoft buyout process.
In his own memo, again shared by The Verge, Booty concluded by detailing the work Jill Braff now has in front of her as Activision Blizzard’s studio chief.
“Building on the successful launch of Starfield, all the ZeniMax/Bethesda studios are poised to create some of the most exciting and innovative games in the industry,” Booty wrote. “I am confident that Jill’s leadership and support of the teams, along with her proven ability to build meaningful bridges back to Xbox, will further empower everyone at Bethesda to bring amazing experiences to our players.
“I’m excited for 2024 and our slate of games over the next 18 months is looking strong. Together we can create amazing, memorable experiences for our players, built in a culture that empowers everyone to be their most authentic selves and do their best work.”
Microsoft announced its Activision Blizzard buyout bid in January 2022, following a turbulent period for the publisher after it was rocked by reports of employee misconduct and subsequent calls for Kotick to depart. Now, more than two years on from that time, Activision Blizzard will be starting the new year fully under new management.