#53: Aftershocks

Hello! First, my apologies for the lack of an update on Monday. I bashed out a few hundred words on something, but wasn’t really sure it was going anywhere. I asked myself, ‘What’s my point here, really?’ and the answer was, well, I dunno. A newsletter allows me to be flexible, and the last thing I want is for Hit Points to become this thing where A Man Has Formed An Opinion because he has space to fill and a deadline to hit. I have the luxury of making my own choices with this thing, and so I chose to throw several hundred words of not-that-much in the bin, and call it a day. No need to waste everyone’s time, is there. Nonetheless, my apologies.

On the subject of making choices, I’ve tried to avoid writing too much about developments in the Activision Blizzard scandal of late. It’s an enormous downer, for a start, but I also feel like I’ve already written everything I have to say about it. One of Japan’s most iconic arcades just closed down, which I initially hoped would allow me to spend today wittering on wistfully about the Japanese arcade scene, and that would be fun. 

But look, two more government agencies are now investigating Activision, Baddy Kotick’s been subpoenaed, and there is talk of payouts of millions of dollars in compensation. High-profile staff are leaving, including in recent days Activision’s chief legal officer and the executive producer of Overwatch 2. Maybe spending today writing about the time a salaryman absolutely rinsed me at Third Strike on a business trip to Tokyo would be in poor taste, and ill-fitting of the brief I have set myself here. Hey, we can always do it on Friday instead.

The net is closing on Activision, then, though quite what that means I’m not sure. I get the sense that the desired endgame in some quarters is Bobby Kotick’s head on a pike, but if the US government’s dealings with the Zuckerbergs and Dorseys of the world are any indication, today’s tech-industry CEOs are as good as bulletproof. To external attack, anyway. If Kotick goes it will be because his shareholders want him gone, and I’m not sure that even an industry-shaking misconduct scandal will impact the balance sheet badly enough for that to happen. Besides, unless it could prove he was directly responsible, it would cost Activision $265 million to get rid of him. 

Kotick is not, or should not be, the focus of all this. It is, above all, about those who were abused and mistreated at Blizzard over the course of decades, and whose bravery in telling their stories brought all this to light. Compensation seems inevitable given all the government bodies now involved; I hope the regulators take Kotick and co to the cleaners, and that doing so brings those affected some form of comfort. But I think also of what this means for Blizzard — of how, or if, a company can repair itself and its reputation after a scandal of this scale — and moreover for the hundreds of shop-floor staff who must find a way to continue to work there under such an enormous, miserable cloud.

Even the blameless now carry that baggage around with them, and they are stuck with it, stick or twist. If you stay, you risk being seen as endorsing, or even being part of, Blizzard’s horrifying past. If you leave, people will wonder why, fearing or suspecting the worst — just as I think we all have when hearing about the latest round of departures. Did they jump, or were they pushed? Were they part of the problem, or did they just feel they could no longer work for a company that had treated its people so terribly? I expect that just about everyone at Blizzard joined up thinking they were embossing their CVs with gold. Instead, they rolled out of bed one morning to find they’d been irreversibly cursed. 

Well, that’s bummed me right out. Let’s do something fun on Friday.


MORE!

  • For those of you wondering if the law is still an ass: yes, it is. French developer Quantic Dream has won one libel case, against Le Monde, and lost another against Mediapart, despite both outlets not just reporting on the same case, but collaborating on it.

  • The latest developments in China’s crackdown on children’s gaming time: a tipoff website where users can rat out games that violate the new regulations, which limit minors to a maximum of three hours of play per week. 

  • Some more follow-up on the Epic vs Apple ruling here, this time on just how much Apple stands to lose from being forced to allow app-store developers to link out to thirdparty payment systems. There’s an assumption that users will continue to go through Apple because it’s so frictionless: that going to a website, creating an account and putting your card details in will be too much of a faff. Fair enough, but I’ve been around enough whale-y mobile-game communities to know that the big spenders will absolutely go for the cheapest option available — and they’re where most of the money comes from. We’ll see.

  • Twitch has reached an agreement with the National Music Publishers’ Association, meaning it will no longer delete videos or ban users for DMCA violations. Playing copyrighted music is still not allowed, but the penalties for “inadvertently or incidentally” breaching the act will no longer be punished quite so sternly. Twitch will actually investigate each claim — imagine! — and replace its banhammer with a warning system. Progress of sorts, I suppose.


You’re all caught up! As ever, please kindly do the things with the buttons below: the numbers are still going up, albeit not quite at last week’s record-breaking pace, and with each new reader and subscriber Hit Points is more dependent on ever on you fine folks for success. Have a good couple of days, and I’ll see you on Friday.

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