Three prominent Blizzard employees have been let go from the company, as first reported by Kotaku, marking the latest departures from the studio following a major sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the state of California. Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga, lead designer Jesse McCree, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft are not employed at Blizzard anymore, according to Kotaku. Activision Blizzard confirmed the departures in a statement to The Verge after we published this story, but declined to comment on whether or not Barriga, McCree, and LeCraft were fired.
“We have a deep, talented roster of developers already in place and new leaders have been assigned where appropriate,” a Blizzard spokesperson said. “We are confident in our ability to continue progress, deliver amazing experiences to our players, and move forward to ensure a safe, productive work environment for all.”
McCree is the inspiration for the name of the McCree character in Overwatch
Activision Blizzard has not shared why they are no longer at the company, according to a Kotaku source. McCree appears to be one of the people photographed inside Blizzard’s so-called “Cosby Suite,” in a screenshot obtained by Kotaku, and appeared to participate in the “BlizzCon Cosby Crew” chat. McCree is also the inspiration for the name of the McCree character in Overwatch; Michael Chu, the game’s former lead writer, revealed in 2017 that the real-life McCree had to “sign over his name” to the Overwatch team because they liked it for the gunslinging character more than many other ideas. (Some Overwatch League casters have avoided saying McCree’s name on air.) LeCraft was also pictured in the Cosby Suite, according to Kotaku’s new story.
We asked if Blizzard plans to change McCree’s name in Overwatch, and the company said it’s checking into it. It’s possible the company might do so: days after the lawsuit hit, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft team promised to remove “references that are not appropriate for our world,” and has reportedly already removed a variety of WoW in-game references to Alex Afrasiabi.
Afrasiabi was a former World of Warcraft senior creative director who was singled out in the lawsuit for his behavior, and Blizzard told Kotaku that it fired Afrasiabi for “his misconduct in his treatment of other employees.” He appears to have worked for the company until June 2020.
The departures of Barriga, McCree, and LeCraft follow the ones by former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, who was named in the lawsuit, and former SVP of HR Jesse Meschuk. Employees walked out in late July to protest the company’s response to the lawsuit, and a shareholder released a letter on Tuesday saying the company’s response doesn’t “go nearly far enough.”
Update August 11th, 7:35PM ET: Added statement from Blizzard and relevant context about another fired Blizzard executive.