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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick made a rare public appearance on Tuesday at CNBC Evolve Conference in Los Angeles.
In an interview with CNBC anchor Becky Quick, Kotick spoke on a variety of topics, from the game company’s growth under his leadership since 1991 to his relationship with Las Vegas gaming mogul Steve Wynn (who resigned from his company last year amid numerous allegations of sexual misconduct) to the recent controversy surrounding Activision Blizzard in the wake of a suspension of professional esports athlete Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for voicing support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong during an official livestream.
“We’re not the operator of the world’s town halls,” Kotick told Quick in response to a comment from Quick saying people are “turning to business leaders and expecting them to lead on a variety of subjects,” including “Hong Kong” and “democracy.”
“We’re the operator of the communities that allow you to have fun through the lens of a video game,” Kotick continued, per a transcript of the conversation. “My responsibility is to make sure that our communities feel safe, secure, comfortable and satisfied, and entertained. … That doesn’t convey to me the right to have a platform for a lot of political views, I don’t think. I think my responsibility is to satisfy our audiences and our stakeholders, our employees, our shareholders.”
Blizzard received considerable backlash following its decision to ban Chung in October. In response, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack walked back the suspension from one year to six months and reinstated Chung’s prize winnings from competitive play (he also shortened the yearlong suspensions for the two interviewers who were on the livestream with Chung). However, many still criticized the company for kowtowing to the Chinese government, and a group of protestors gathered outside the company’s annual BlizzCon convention in Anaheim last month.
Amid the controversy, Kotick has remained silent, not making any public appearances or statements on the ban or its fallout.
“I think there are some business people who are incredible examples of character and integrity and principle and have what you see are the great attributes of leadership, and I think that they are incredibly inspiring for me,” Kotick told Quick on Tuesday. “But I think, you know, they do have the right to articulate views and visions and voices about government and policy and politics, and I love engaging with those people.”
During the interview, Kotick boasted that his company has 350 million customers. Activision Blizzard currently has the top-selling game of the year with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, while it also revealed plans for upcoming releases such as Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 at this year’s BlizzCon. Still, in its most recent earnings report, the company lowered its expectations for this holiday season.
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