Activision Blizzard launched its innovative Level Up U program during the summer of 2022. The video game company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick considers talent and diversity to be critical aspects of its success. “However, the rapid growth of the industry, including our franchises, has made it clear that we need to find new ways to attract and grow talent,” he stated. Kotick shared that “this is the first of many Level Up U programs.” Expect Activision Blizzard to focus on art and animation. “I’m incredibly excited about the potential of Level Up U,” Kotick said.
Employees tend to stick around at the video game company responsible for Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Candy Crush Saga.“We have really long tenures. The people who come to Activision generally stay for a really long time,” Bobby Kotick told Forbes. “So, we have a long history of seeing who has performed and who has been successful in developing new innovative ideas, and we would generally try to promote from within.”
According to Kotick, “A lot of our leadership are people who have come 15, 16, 17 years ago, who started out as production coordinators or production assistants or in quality assurance, but are super bright, super well educated, passionate gamers. And that works really well.”
Over the years, the company has reduced the number of games it makes “to allow for focus,” said the CEO, explaining that it’s “all about the commitment to excellence.”
Bobby Kotick on Activision Blizzard’s Mobile Game Success and the Importance of Hiring Right
One of the biggest challenges the CEO faces is figuring out how to deliver a shareholder return by investing in new platforms. So when Bobby Kotick and Activision Blizzard took a gamble on expanding the company’s mobile gaming sector, it paid off in a major way. “Mobile is now our leading platform,” he said. According to the company’s Q2 2022 report, its mobile gaming earned more income than the PC and console gaming divisions combined.
“You have to find people who have the characteristics of being able to develop systems to analyze game play or game behavior,” Kotick said. “This is sort of a big cultural advantage at Activision; we find people who have a graduate degree of some kind, mainly it’s in the sciences, and they are in the jobs that would never suggest that they were working from anything game related, but that they’re passionate gamers. And they are really bright and well educated, so we will bring them in and train them.”
Encouraging Innovation in the Gaming Industry
To get an Activision Blizzard game to market, it must undergo the green light process. “The green light process has evolved over a very long period of time,” Bobby Kotick explained. “It’s a pretty exhaustive process, very milestone based, and there is a whole process of peer review where [employees] come in and show a prototype or a game concept. Now [that] also includes all the marketing, because the marketing is so integrated into the game experience.”
According to the CEO, the green light process analyzes an array of aspects, including if the research confirms the original insights into the game and if it’s being produced on schedule and within the budget. Kotick said it’s “a very regular and disciplined process.”
Kotick said, “A lot of my time is spent on human development. The organizational development process, I’d say, is about a third of my time, and it is a very organized, rigorous process.” The longtime video game holding company CEO learned a lot of his leadership skills from Jack Welch, who was the CEO of General Electric. “Jack himself would go and see 50 or 100 general managers of businesses, [and] have them present their business plans and their businesses to him,” explained Kotick. “He would get to really engage them for a day with their teams and people, and you learn so much about those people and those businesses and their potential.”
Bobby Kotick said that Activision Blizzard “grew so quickly,” and one of his responsibilities as CEO is to ensure that the company “is constantly putting people in places where they have the opportunity to develop into careers, but also have a rewards and recognition system that allows a great programmer to stay as a great programmer.”