Activision's yearly filing with the SEC is filled with the usual dreary descriptions of its business practices, after what's been an especially dreary year for the company. And, just as was the case three years ago when an SEC filing got everyone talking about what Activision was doing wrong, it's cropping up again, and once again, I'll step in to say: This is all par for the course, and with one exception, there's nothing special to see here.
When the 2019 version of this document was made public, shortly after the company had laid off a bunch of its workers, a lot of attention was paid to sections that said that Activision and Blizzard might suffer financially if its products weren't well-received. As I pointed out at the time, this is standard boilerplate copy for these kinds of documents, which also include provisions for things like natural disasters and changes to tax laws. The section in question was not an admission by the company that it was intending to release poor products, no more than it was planning to get wiped off the planet by an earthquake.
This year's version of the document, as pointed out by Axios, includes the usual disaster prep, along with one piece that's got everyone talking -- namely, the sections subheaded "We are experiencing adverse effects related to concerns raised about our workplace" and "If we do not attract, retain, and motivate skilled personnel, we will be unable to effectively conduct our business," which includes the line:
"related media attention can be expected to have an adverse effect on our ability to attract and retain employees and has resulted in work stoppages. If we are unable to attract additional qualified personnel or retain and utilize the services of key personnel, we can expect this would adversely affect our business."
While that certainly falls under the "No shit, Sherlock" header -- or maybe "fuck around and find out" -- just like as with the "poor quality" disclaimer of a few years ago, it's simply a standard risk factor to point out. In fact, those quality concerns are mentioned elsewhere in the filing, but they've been overlooked this year because all the focus is on everything else.
That said, there is one additional point that should raise a few eyebrows. California law required Activision to add another woman to its board of directors by the end of 2021. It hasn't done so because its "current directors would cease to continue to serve on our Board of Directors upon consummation of our proposed transaction with Microsoft, [and] we were unable to conclude the process in 2021."
Two things: First, talks with Microsoft to acquire Activision Blizzard began in late November 2021, which meant that the company still had about 90% of the year to conduct this piece of business. I've also seen unconfirmed reports that say the law in question went into effect on January 1, 2019, meaning the company actually had just shy of three full years to get another woman on its board. In no way can the pending transaction with Microsoft be viewed as an impediment to this imperative.
Second, I don't think it's been reported that Activision's current board would "cease to continue to serve" in that capacity after the deal goes through. If true, that's a major piece of news in and of itself, as there have been calls for the board to resign, in part or in full, largely stemming from its public support of CEO Bobby Kotick. If true, and if Kotick himself departs, then we might get a fully clean slate of leadership when the Microsoft deal is finalized. We can always hope.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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