Ask GR Anything is a weekly Q&A column that answers questions submitted by readers (as well as questions we're particularly curious about ourselves). Got a burning question about games or the industry? Ask us in the comments below and you may just get it answered!
Corporate pay and bonuses are all the rage these days, with the "Occupy (Etc.)" protests going on (whatever you happen to think of them), so we thought we’d kick off the debut of Ask GR Anything with a look at the gaming industry’s most reviled CEO: Mr. Robert A. Kotick.
As Activision Blizzard’s most visible officer, Kotick’s spent the last few years as a prime target for gamer rage following every unpopular decision the company has made. The hatred really started boiling around 2008, when Kotick became Activision’s CEO and Activision started releasing a new Guitar Hero game seemingly every 20 minutes, eventually running the franchise into the ground. Kotick also takes a lot of flak for the decisions made by Blizzard since its 2008 merger with Activision, including Starcraft II being split into three games, Blizzard planning to take a cut of Diablo III’s real-money auction house, and World of WarCraft’s microtransactions.
Under Kotick’s watch, Activision has also let several promising games languish at retail without advertising (i.e. Singularity, Blur, and James Bond 007: Blood Stone) and closed one of its most consistently awesome studios, Bizarre Creations. Finally, many gamers blame Kotick and Activision for the breakup of Call of Duty creator Infinity Ward. After a dispute over alleged unpaid royalties and meetings with rival publishers, the studio heads were fired, prompting 46 IW employees to resign soon afterward. (This may have had negative consequences for Modern Warfare 3, which was reportedly stalled in development for months after the revolt.)
Above: It still reviewed well, though
So how much did he make for riling the gaming community so badly? We took a peek at Activision’s annual SEC filings to find out.
Kotick’s flat, pre-approved cash salary for 2011 is $1,057,350, up from $1,007,000 last year. In other words, his yearly five percent cost-of-living increase was quite a bit more than the average US salary in 2010.
That’s just cash pay, though. He also has a bonus structure set up to provide incentives for him to look after shareholders’ best interests. With those bonuses included, he received a total of $5,597,310. That’s not all, though! Not even close. He also earned a bunch of “other” compensation throughout the year. This includes $47,000 worth of insurance, $17,000 for “improvements to his home security,” and a whopping $411,364 in Activision stock dividends (the portion of a company’s profits that are paid out to shareholders.)
But it’s still not over yet! He also received 160,000 shares of Acti-Blizz stock, worth just under $2 million when they were granted to him in 2010. According to the filings, he has received about 2,500,000 Acti-Blizz stock since coming on board. In order to claim most of that stock, the company’s share price needs to reach a specific limit, and he needs to stay CEO for a set length of time. If he’s able to collect on all of those shares, they’ll be worth about $31,100,000. Not bad for someone who’s generated several lifetimes’ worth of gamer rage.
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