The Wall Street Journal reports that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick had mulled buying a games media website to control the narrative, following a tumultuous year of scandal for Activision Blizzard.
For anyone not in the loop Activision Blizzard has been the subject of investigation and subsequent lawsuits following accusations of extreme gender discrimination and sexual harassment, on top of employee walkouts over unfair treatment.
CEO Bobby Kotick had said multiple times that he he would ensure changes to the culture of Blizzard Entertainment, even asserting that he had begun this process as soon as the investigations started despite recent reports showing he himself had a hand in covering up misconduct reports.
According to people close to Mr Kotick, one of the ideas he floated to repair the publisher’s image was to simply buy a games media outlet and “Change the public narrative of the company”.
The Journal mentions PC Gamer and Kotaku as outlets Kotick contemplated acquiring, but also notes that spokespeople from both outlets had declined to comment, and a spokesperson for Activision disputed the Journal’s report.
The scandals plaguing Activision Blizzard had worn down the board of Activision Blizzard, who are in the middle of proceedings to be acquired by Microsoft for 68.7 billion USD.
The Horrifying Implications Of Bobby Kotick Buying Games Media (Editorial)
As a journalists, it’s important to note how downright horrifying that thought is. Games journalists are accused of being paid off at the slightest drop of a hat, whether we liked a game too much or didn’t like it.
As is, there’s already a lot of ethical questions about corporate ownership- get owned by a big enough company, and people will ask about your ulterior motives for liking a seemingly innocent product.
While personally I don’t think this story will directly contribute to assertions that all games journalists are paid shills, it certainly doesn’t help soften the image, either.
If nothing else, it just tells you the financial scale at which Activision Blizzard operates- acquisitions used to be tentpole events in a company’s history, and Bobby Kotick mulled it over to solve one specific problem.