After 32 years, CEO Bobby Kotick is leaving Activision next week as Microsoft makes more changes to bring the company under the Xbox mothership

Activision Blizzard
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

After a 32-year career, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is officially stepping down next week, with his last day at the company being Friday, December 29. Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced a series of key leadership changes as it works to bring Activision Blizzard into Xbox's fold.

We've known Kotick was departing Activision for a while now, and today he sent an email to employees in which he reflected on his origins as a Gamer™, his time with the company, and the gaming industry more broadly.

"40 years later, as my last day leading this company inches closer, I marvel at how far the talented people at our company have come toward realizing the great potential of games," Kotick said. "You have transformed a hobbyist form of entertainment into the world's most engaging medium. It has been the privilege of my lifetime to work alongside you as we broadened the appeal of games.

Kotick also touched on the moment Xbox boss Phil Spencer approached him about the acquisition, saying, "it was immediately obvious that the combination of our businesses would enable us to continue to lead as the list of capable, well-resourced competitors grows."

He also said Spencer "shares our values and recognizes our talents. He is passionate about our games and the people who make them. He has bold ambition."

In an internal memo obtained by The Verge, Spencer thanked Kotick "for his invaluable contributions to this industry, his partnership in closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition and his collaboration following the close." He also detailed a number of changes at the top of Activision Blizzard leadership.

Among other changes, Spencer revealed, "Thomas Tippl (Vice Chairman, Activision Blizzard), Rob Kostich (President, Activision Publishing), Mike Ybarra (President, Blizzard Entertainment) and Tjodolf Sommestad (President, King) will report to Matt Booty (President, Game Content and Studios). The leadership teams for Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King will remain in place, with no changes to the structure of how the studios and business units are run."

Additionally, a memo from Microsoft Studios head Matt Booty announced that Jill Braff will be taking over as head of ZeniMax and Bethesda, having joined Xbox in 2021 following roles at Nintendo, Sega, Glu Mobile, Home Shopping Network, and Warner Bros.

Xbox and Activision's 20-month legal odyssey finally came to an end this October when the deal closed. At the time, Spencer said: "Today we start the work to bring beloved Activision, Blizzard, and King franchises to Game Pass and other platforms." That work is still very much ongoing, but clearly ramping up. 

Kotick has been at the center of Activision Blizzard's years-long battle against lawsuits and allegations of harassment and a "frat boy" culture in which female employees endure regular sexual harassment and experience discrimination, pay discrepancies, and retaliation by leadership. He was accused of overlooking such conditions, but has consistently maintained that the complaints are baseless, insisting earlier this year that there's never been "a systemic issue" and blaming complaints on labor movements looking to "destabilize the company." 

Activision recently reached a $54 million settlement with the California Civil Rights Department, which has now dropped its lawsuit against the company, with another $47 million set aside to address accusations of discrimination in pay and promotion opportunities. The company has also previously paid out tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements to groups like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.