In an interview with the New York Times, Spencer was asked to clarify what he meant when he said Microsoft was evaluating all aspects of its relationship with Activision Blizzard and if there had been any action taken against the publisher. “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.”
Spencer went on to say that this wasn’t about Xbox “virtue-shaming” other companies as “Xbox’s history is not spotless” before referring to 2016’s Game Developers Conference — Microsoft hired women dressed as schoolgirls to dance on podiums at the conference. “That was a painful moment in our history of Xbox,” said Spencer. He then spoke about how the company had learned from the situation and said he would rather help others learn from their mistakes rather than reprimand them. “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,” he said.
Allegations from the ongoing lawsuit against Activision Blizzard were then put to Spencer and he was asked what needed to be done when problems like this arose within the gaming industry. “Well, I think the first thing we need to be able to do is have people feel like they can report and talk about what’s happening,” Spencer said. “That goes to, like I said, the safety for people. And I have more capability of that on my own team. But I’ll just say in general, having open lines of communication where people can report on their lived experience on our teams, it’s got to be so critical. And to get there, it’s a cultural effort of how do you build that trust so people feel like when they whistle blow, when they raise their hand about topics that are going on, that they won’t face repercussions. Rather, they’ll see action.
“In terms of work that we do with other companies, again, 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.”
The Xbox boss was then pressed further on why he believes it’s not his job to punish other companies. “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 C.E.O.s are. Like, C.E.O.s 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.”
The lawsuit against Activision Blizzard is still ongoing. A report from the Wall Street Journal alleged that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of, and in some cases, involved in harassment against employees – a claim Activision Blizzard says “presents a misleading view” of the company and Kotick.
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