Xbox boss Phil Spencer has been asked how his company’s relationship with Activision has actually changed, after he previously told Microsoft staff he was “evaluating all aspects” of Xbox’s relationship with the troubled Call of Duty publisher.
Spencer’s previous comments were made – alongside similar warnings from both PlayStation and Nintendo bosses – following the publication of last year’s bombshell report into alleged instances of sexual assault and harassment at Activision.
Now, in a wide-ranging New York Times interview, Spencer alluded to changes in Xbox’s relationship with Activision – while keeping details vague.
“The work we do specifically with a partner like Activision is something that, obviously, I’m not going to talk publicly about,” Spencer said. “We have changed how we do certain things with them, and they’re aware of that. But… this isn’t about, for us as Xbox, virtue-shaming other companies. Xbox’s history is not spotless.”
At this point, Spencer went on to discuss Xbox’s infamous Game Developers Conference 2016 event – “our GDC dance party moment” – which was criticised for featuring women dancing on podiums in short skirts. (Spencer apologised for the event at the time, dubbing it “unequivocally wrong”.)
“Any of the partners that are out there, if I can learn from them or I can help with the journey that we’ve been on on Xbox by sharing what we’ve done and what we’ve built, I’d much rather do that than get into any kind of finger-wagging at other companies that are out there,” Spencer continued.
“I would rather help other companies than try to get into punishing. I don’t think my job is out there to punish other companies,” Spencer added, when pressed on why he didn’t think Activision’s actions – or reported inaction on the behalf of controversial CEO Bobby Kotick – were not worthy of greater public rebuke.
“I think in terms of interactions with other companies, the things that we choose to do with our brand and our platform, in coordination or not with other companies, is the avenue that we have to have an impact,” Spencer replied.
“I would say in terms of individuals that are in leadership positions at other companies, it’s not obviously our position to judge who the CEOs are. Like, CEOs are chosen by shareholders and boards. At Xbox, I know who I’m accountable for here in terms of the business and the operations. It’s my teams here, my management chain. And that’s the thing that we continue to focus on, is to try to grow. And whether that’s us sharing, again, the experiences that we have with other partners, if we can help them on their own journey or on the things that happen in our own teams.”
Last month, six US states pressured Activision Blizzard to make “sweeping changes”, while a lawyer representing an Activision Blizzard employee called the company’s victim compensation fund “woefully inadequate”.
Elsewhere, Activision’s issues have continued in the new year. Just last week, Activision said in a statement it was “engaged in dialogue with its staff to hear concerns” as a group of Raven Software employees continued to strike following layoffs at the studio.