In the last week or so, we’ve learned about the state of California filing a lawsuit against Blizzard citing numerous stories of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination at the company. The revelations have been followed by even more stories of unacceptable behavior by leaders of the company, and now the president of Blizzard (who was named in the lawsuit) is leaving the company “to pursue new opportunities.”
Employees were informed of J. Allen Brack’s departure this morning, and an announcement from Activision Blizzard says that former Vicarious Visions leader Jen Oneal and former Xbox executive Mike Ybarra are now co-leaders of the developer. A note on Blizzard.com says the two “are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust.”
Brack took over Blizzard in 2018, and prior to that, he led the development of World of Warcraft, where the team included the only other person specifically named in the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) lawsuit, Alex Afrasiabi. Women told IGN that working in the company was “akin to working in a frat house.” The World of Warcraft team was specifically cited as an “untouchable” source of the toxic culture, because of the money the franchise brought in and the long tenures of senior employees.
Ahead of their walkout, employees made a list with four demands including an audit of executive staff, an end to forced arbitration clauses, and other changes to improve diversity and equity for marginalized groups at the company. These demands followed an inconsistent and self-admittedly “tone deaf” response from the company, including a letter from Brack where he claimed to have fought “bro culture” throughout his career — despite the lawsuit alleging he was aware of and enabling the behavior cited.
It was great attending the #ActiBlizzWalkout this morning - happy to see so many familiar faces. Together let's build a safe, brighter and fair future for everyone.— Mike Ybarra (@Qwik) July 28, 2021
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has not addressed the issues since his letter last week, and the announcement of Brack’s departure comes from COO Daniel Alegre. Saying that Oneal and Ybarra “will share responsibility for development and operational accountability” at Blizzard, he noted that Oneal has been providing leadership and support for the Overwatch and Diablo franchises, while Ybarra has been an EVP overseeing Battle.net since joining Blizzard in 2019.
Brack’s exit means he won’t be a part of Activision Blizzard’s Q2 earnings presentation and call later today, as the company answers questions from investors and analysts about its current situation.
J. Allen Brack:
I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change. I anticipate they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and that they can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the components of our culture that make Blizzard so special.