Activision have clarified that their logo was omitted from the Call of Duty: Vanguard trailer as a “creative choice” reflecting the game.
As previously reported, the Call of Duty: Vanguard reveal trailer (launching November 5th across Windows PC and consoles) suspiciously omitted Activision’s logo. Instead the trailer featured Call of Duty Presents, with no Activision logo among the other companies at the end. Legal text of Activision’s ownership was still seen however.
This sparked many believing it was due to the sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, and its subsequent fallout. Despite it being widely known that Activision is responsible for Call of Duty, their logo may have been dropped due to controversy.
Replying to Axios Gaming co-author and former Kotaku Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo, an Activision PR spokesperson stated “Call of Duty has continued to expand into an incredible universe of experiences. This was a creative choice that reflects how Vanguard represents the next major installment in the franchise.”
While this could mean that Activision will step back from direct involvement on Call of Duty games or allow outside studios to develop such titles, this is doubtful. It was recently confirmed that all Activision studios are currently working on Call of Duty titles. It may mean the game will feature a more diverse cast of characters, and developers.
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment, which may have led to one woman who committed suicide on a company trip, and discrimination for women being paid less and promoted less frequently and after longer periods of time.
Activision Blizzard stated that while “there is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” they felt the Californian report “ includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” An internal email from Activision executive Frances Townsend described the allegations as “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”
In response, almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” It also called for official statements “that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.”
Staff led a walkout on July 28th; listing demands including ending mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, adopting policies to improve representation at all levels of the company, publishing pay data to show women are paid and promoted fairly, and hiring a third party to audit the company’s executive and HR staff.
Sources claimed staff would not be punished for the walkout, and had paid time off. Kotick later stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf.”
Along with bringing in a law firm to conduct an immediate review of Activision Blizzard policies and procedures; Kotick stated the company would investigate all the claims, creating safe spaces for Listening Sessions organized by third parties, an immediate evaluation of managers and leaders, compliance resources for diverse hiring, and removing NPCs from World of Warcraft inspired by those named in the allegations.
The staff stated they were dissatisfied with Kotick’s response to the lawsuit; stating it did not address ending forced arbitration, workers involved in the oversight of hiring and promotion policies, greater pay transparency, or employee selection of a third party to audit the company processes and HR.
Further, almost 500 former and current Ubisoft employees announced their support for Activision Blizzard staff in an open letter; calling for new industry-wide rules and processes. Jeff Strain, a former Blizzard Entertainment developer and founder of Undead Labs, recently called for unionization of the video games industry.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff have demanded WilmerHale not be the third party auditing the company. This is due to an alleged conflict of interest, the law firms alleged “history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action,” and Avakian specializing in “protecting the wealthy and powerful.”
Coca-Cola and State Farm announced they were reassessing their partnerships with Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, pulling their promotions from upcoming events. They join T-Mobile who pulled support from the Call of Duty league shortly after the controversy broke.
Frances Townsend, an Activision Blizzard executive, recently deleted her Twitter account after backlash against her tweet promoting “the problem with whistleblowing.”