Long before he would lead a video gaming empire, Bobby Kotick started a software company in his dorm room at the University of Michigan. He had a knack for tech and created productivity software for the Apple II. Today, he’s the CEO of Activision Blizzard, the video game developer and publisher responsible for such hits as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush Saga. The success of those games and many more helped his company earn $8.80 billion in revenue in 2021, according to the company’s Q4 report. While he works at the Southern California headquarters, the company has businesses and offices around the world, including Sydney, São Paulo; Mississauga, Canada; Shanghai; Berlin; Cork, Ireland; and Dublin.
“We have six business units,” Kotick told David Rubenstein during an appearance on his show Leadership Live With David Rubenstein. “One business unit is headquartered in Santa Monica, one in Irvine, California, one in London, and then a few different places. We also collaborate across the world. So we have studios in Sweden, in Spain, in the United Kingdom, in places like Albany, New York, and Madison, Wisconsin. Those studios collaborate with each other.”
Bobby Kotick Learning From Activision Blizzard’s Gaming Legacy
Activision Blizzard is responsible for many of the largest franchises in the video game industry. Kotick considers them to be “a very good road map for a long-term future.” He explained that to keep the millions of people who actively play Candy Crush on a monthly user basis happy, the company needs to constantly deliver new content. “So there are probably 600 or 700 people on the development team on a game like Candy Crush who are constantly introducing new content for the players,” said Kotick. “There are 1,600 people in six studios around the world creating content regularly for a game like Call of Duty.” It’s no small feat to continually create new aspects and evolutions of famous Activision Blizzard games. According to Bobby Kotick, there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people working on a franchise.
How personally involved is Kotick in the whole process? “I participate in the process of determining what new ideas we’re going to pursue,” he said. “But remember, our company was founded in 1980. We have hundreds of franchises in the Activision Blizzard library, so it is very easy for us to go back and look at new ideas in that collection. And then every year, we’re creating new potential franchises from the ground up as well.” Kotick said, “Our business is unusual for two reasons: first is that we have franchises, and second is because we can test the content before we commercially release it.”
He added, “I have a lot of patience. So, we’ll iterate and then release content to test it and iterate again. That is how we can get a much better commercial and creative and critical result than I think you can with film or television.”
From Video Games to Improving the Lives of Vets
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick co-created a nonprofit, the Call of Duty Endowment, in November 2009 to help veterans in the United States get placed in good jobs after their military service ends. In 2017 it expanded to include veterans in the United Kingdom.
“These efforts are focused on providing employment support to veterans of Britain’s armed forces with the goal of finding the high-quality jobs that fully leverage their experience, skills, education, and character,” said a spokesperson for the organization. The Activision Blizzard company has answered the call of duty and donated more than $125 million to the nonprofit.
In May 2022, the Call of Duty Endowment reached its goal of connecting 100,000 veterans to jobs, two years ahead of schedule. “We are proud of the accomplishments achieved by the Call of Duty Endowment. We recognize that our heroes need even more post-service employment support and opportunity than is currently provided,” said Bobby Kotick. “To date, we have invested over $60 million in support of veterans’ employment initiatives to secure 100,00 job placements. Today, we are committing an additional $30 million of funding for new veteran employment initiatives. With our even more efficient programs we expect to generate another 50,000 job placements through Call of Duty Endowment grants.”