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Activision Blizzard lawsuit: Everything you need to know – CNET

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Activision Blizzard, the company behind some of the biggest franchises in all of gaming, has been rocked by an explosive lawsuit. The gaming giant is being sued by the state of California, which accuses it of workplace discrimination against its female workforce. 

The suit, filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, argues that the company has a “frat boy” workplace culture and alleges several alarming incidents of discrimination and harassment.

The suit didn’t take long to make an impact. Many employees have spoken out in support of the claims, over 2,000 have signed an open letter calling for action by the company, and a walkout protest was staged last Wednesday. After initially rejecting many of the DFEH’s allegations, Activision Blizzard has said it’ll launch a full probe — and its games will be changed to reflect values of diversity and inclusion.

Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. It owns Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot and many more hugely popular franchises and last year recorded $2.2 billion in profit. Here’s everything you need to know about this colossal lawsuit.

What is Activision Blizzard accused of?

The DFEH’s suit accuses Activision Blizzard of workplace discrimination. It alleges women are compensated unfairly — paid less for the same job, scrutinized more heavily than their male peers — and subject to considerable harassment. The agency called Activision Blizzard a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination,” in which women are subject to regular sexual advances by (often high-ranking) men who largely go unpunished.  

Illustrative of the claims DFEH is making against Activision is an office ritual referred to as “cube crawls,” in which men allegedly drink “copious” amounts of alcohol, crawl through the office cubicles and engage in “inappropriate behavior” including groping. The lawsuit describes incidents including allegations that a female employee died by suicide during a business trip as a result of a toxic relationship with a supervisor.  

“Women and girls now make up almost half of gamers in America, but the gaming industry continues to cater to men,” the suit reads. “Activision-Blizzard’s double-digit percentage growth, 10-figure annual revenues and recent diversity marketing campaigns have unfortunately changed little.” 

And then employees reacted?

After DFEH filed its suit, Activision Blizzard responded with a lengthy statement that said the department had filed a rushed, inaccurate report with “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of [Activision Blizzard’s] past.” In an email sent to staff, published by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, vice president of corporate affairs Frances Townsend said the site presented “a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories — some from more than a month ago.” 

These statements evidently didn’t satisfy employees, neither current nor former. Over 2,000 of them signed an open letter to Activision Blizzard leadership in which they criticized the company’s response. (Activision Blizzard currently has around 10,000 employees.) 

“To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership,” the open letter reads, according to Bloomberg. “To claim this is a ‘truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit’ while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse is simply unacceptable.”

The letter signed by employees made three demands. First, that the company issue statements that acknowledge the severity of the allegations. Second, that Townsend resign from her role as executive sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network. Third, that Activision Blizzard’s executive leadership collaborate with employees to ensure a safe workspace to “speak out and come forward.” 

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby KotickActivision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco in October 2016.


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How did Activision Blizzard respond?   

After Activision Blizzard’s first statement, along with the one made by Townsend, was so thoroughly rejected by employees, the company appears to be taking the suit more seriously. Last Tuesday the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, issued a letter addressing the suit, and the concerns of employees.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf,” it reads. “We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.”

Kotick announced that a law firm, WilmerHale, will be hired to evaluate the company’s “policies and procedures.” 

Beyond the probe, Kotick outlined several changes that would be made effective immediately. The company would be investigating “each and every claim” of discrimination and harassment being made, and will host listening sessions to collaborate with employees on how to improve the workplace culture. Activision Blizzard will also be “evaluating managers and leaders” across the company and making personnel changes as appropriate. Finally, changes will be made to in-game content.

“We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content,” Kotick wrote.

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Employees at Wednesday’s walkout.


David McNew/Getty

What about the walkout?

Alongside the open letter signed by over 2,000 employees, workers at the company planned a strike last Wednesday morning. Seeking now to be more collaborative with aggrieved workers, Activision Blizzard sent an email to staff saying they would get paid time off for attending the protest.

Hundreds of employees took up the offer, as they set up a picket line outside of Activision Blizzard’s Irvine, California headquarters. Employees held signs that read “every voice matters”, “fight bad guys in game, fight bad guys IRL” and “nerf male priviledge.” (When developers weaken characters in games like Overwatch it’s known as “nerfing” them.) 

Over 350 employees took up the offer, reports The Washington Post.  The walkout participants acknowledged Kotick’s letter, but had four additional demands, as seen in the tweet above. These include greater pay transparency and employee participation in hiring and promotion policies.

What has the industry reaction been?

On Aug. 30 Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, the studio behind Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, assured investors that his company wouldn’t tolerate a workplace environment like the one allegedly seen within Activision Blizzard.

“We will not tolerate harassment or discrimination or bad behavior of any kind. We never have,” he said. “Is there more we can do? I’m certain there is. Do we feel like we’re in a pretty good place? We’re grateful that we do feel that way right now.”

Zelnick is the latest industry figure to weigh in on the lawsuit. 

“It’s our responsibility to ensure this type of behavior is not tolerated at Bungie at any level,” developer Bungie, owned by Activision Blizzard, tweeted, “and that we never excuse it or sweep it under the rug. While the accounts in this week’s news are difficult to read, we hope they will lead to justice, awareness, and accountability.”

Chris Metzen, a co-creator of Blizzard franchise Diablo who left the company in 2016, said: “We failed, and I’m sorry… to all of you at Blizzard — those of you I know and those of you whom I’ve never met — I offer you my very deepest apologies for the part I played in a culture that fostered harassment, inequality, and indifference.”

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The Gadget Market Keeps Generating Billions for Manufacturers

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Hardware and software technology has been on an ongoing stage of evolution for more than five decades. People of all ages and backgrounds have at some point purchased gadgets of all shapes and sizes and for all kinds of activities, from Walkman portable cassette players to iPods and from Casio electronic watches to smartwatches. These purchases have given manufacturers like Apple, Sony or Samsung the ability to establish themselves in the market, create powerful brand names and reinvest their funds in new technologies.

Everyone Uses Some Kind of Gadget

People rely on technology for many of their daily activities. Laptops and mobiles are at the top of the preference list, as people can use them in order to work, play games, find information about online casino bonuses, or plan their holidays. Just with a few clicks of a button or a few taps on the screen, people can instantly find information without having to take one step. There are also those who use the above devices or devices similar to them, in order to exercise, to find new friends, to find their destination in unfamiliar cities or regions and to ask the AI virtual assistance of every operating system for instructions.

 

High-Tech Gadgets Are Always in High Demand

Gaming, computing and communications have taken over a big piece of the electronics market pie, but modern gadgets can offer people a lot more than that. In many electronics stores, one can find gadgets that can help their users manage their weight, gadgets that help you sleep or gadgets that can help with one’s personal hygiene. The important thing is to avoid buying things you do not really need just because they look cool.

An example of a gadget that people are going crazy about is the green iPhone 13 Pro. The moment Apple announced a price drop for one of its best-selling products, customers started standing in line in order to buy it. It is not the first time this has happened, of course, but now that people have started to retail-shop again, the queues at stores selling Apple products are back to being endless. Functionality-wise, the green phone is exactly the same as the functionality of the other iPhone 13 Pro versions, so if one already owns this model, then buying the green phone just because it is green would not really make much sense, even if the consumer can afford to buy it.

 

Know What You Are Buying

When it comes to gadgets, consumers always expect a lot more from a product before they buy it. Some buy a smartwatch and expect it to offer as many things as the gadgets the Batman uses in the movies or in comic books. Others buy an iPhone and expect its battery to last forever just because people say that Apple’s products have a higher battery life than that of products marketed by other manufacturers. However, every product has its limitations and consumers need to take that into account before purchasing it, regardless if it is a phone, a laptop or smart glasses.

 

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Apple Podcasts Update Enables Annual Subscriptions – PCMag

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Apple this week unveiled a host of fresh podcast tools for managing storage across devices, enabling annual subscriptions, and allowing creators to more easily distribute content through third-party providers.

With the release of iOS 15.5, iPadOS 15.5, and macOS 12.4, podcasters can now present annual subscription plans(Opens in a new window) alongside monthly offerings through the new plan picker, which appears when listeners tap “Subscribe” or “Try Free” on a show or channel with a subscription option. Annual plans are selected by default.

To make the move from monthly to annual subscription, open the Apple Podcasts app and navigate to Listen Now > Account > Manage Subscriptions, then choose your preferred program and upgrade to a 12-month plan. Changes can be made on a per-podcast basis. The picker also displays how much listeners can save with an annual subscription (if lower than the monthly alternative).

While you’re at it, check out Apple’s new automatic download preferences, available through your iDevice Settings app. Open the Podcasts tab and tap Automatically Download to choose how many episodes are saved for offline streaming: a certain number per show, all recent episodes, all new episodes, or none. Customize individual shows by tapping “…” on a program page, opening the Settings, and selecting a preference from Automatically Downloaded.

Users will be prompted to remove automatically downloaded episodes that don’t meet the newly selected criteria; those that were manually downloaded or saved will not be removed, though the app does recommend removing old downloads to free up storage space.

Recommended by Our Editors

Apple also introduced a new feature for podcast creators: Delegated Delivery(Opens in a new window) aims to save creators time and energy by letting authorized platforms publish free and premium episodes to Apple Podcasts on their behalf. Starting this fall, creators can use their favorite hosting providers’ dashboards to schedule the release of exclusive, early access, bonus, and ad-free content using WAV, FLAC, and MP3 files. Initial partners include Acast, ART19, Blubrry, Buzzsprout, Libsyn, Omny Studio, and RSS.com; more providers will be “announced in the future.”

While anyone can utilize the new feature—free to all creators through Apple Podcasts Connect—to publish gratis shows, a $19.99 annual Apple Podcasters Program(Opens in a new window) membership is required to share premium shows and episodes. Creators can check support for Delegated Delivery via the Hosting Providers page(Opens in a new window); interested providers, meanwhile, can contact Apple for more information.

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Ecobee releases two new smart thermostats with a classic glass face look – MobileSyrup

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A recent leak suggested that Ecobee might be working on two new smart thermostats. Now the Toronto-based company has officially announced its new Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced.

“Today’s introduction of Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium and Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced pushes the boundaries of the category to improve comfort, home health, and security, while continuing to deliver the energy saving features synonymous with ecobee.” reads the company’s press release.

Both of the new devices feature radar, which Ecobee says is its most advanced sensor technology to date, along with improved occupancy and motion detection and a 50 percent larger display that boasts Ecobee’s new UI (user interface). The Smart Thermostat Premium and Enhanced have been outfitted with a “stunning glass face and smooth waterfall edges” for a classic look and feel, whereas the updated radar can now detect motion from further away. The new radar, unlike an infrared sensor, is hidden inside the thermostat, providing a clean look for the device on your wall.

Both the new devices can be controlled with your Apple Watch or by integrating them with Apple Homekit+. What makes the Premium version better, however, is that it now shows the indoor air quality carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and relative humidity with alerts to warn you if air quality inside your house is poor. The Thermostat will also share tips like ‘open a window’ to improve indoor air quality.

“Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced are Ecobee’s first products to be paper manual-free with a mobile-only approach to installation,” reads the Toronto-based company’s news release.

Both new smart thermostats are now available to order in Canada via Ecobee’s website. Follow the links to check out the Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced, available for $329.99 and $239.99, respectively.

Image credit: Ecobee

Source: Ecobee

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