Blizzard president J. Allen Brack has exited the video-game company to “pursue new opportunities,” following an employee walkout and protest over Blizzard’s response to an equality lawsuit.
Replacing him will be Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, appointments that were announced by Activision Blizzard, Inc. president and COO Daniel Alegre Tuesday in a memo to employees.
Alegre wrote: “I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard. Jen and Mike will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company. Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards.”
Employees at Activision Blizzard staged a mass walkout July 28 at the company’s offices in Irvine, Calif., a move intended to pressure the company into creating a better work environment for non-male employees as well as equalize pay.
Activision Blizzard was sued by the state of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing the week prior for cultivating a culture of work that was, according to the suit, “akin to working in a frat house.” Alleged misconduct and gender discrimination at Activision are rampant, according to the lawsuit, including inappropriate commentary on female employees’ bodies, rape jokes and unwanted touching or groping at work.
The “Call of Duty” and “Overwatch” publisher was also accused of paying female employees less than their male counterparts for doing the exact same duties.
The day before the walkout, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick called the company’s response to the lawsuit “tone deaf” in a letter to employees and investors: “It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”
Blizzard previously dismissed the claims and told NPR in a statement on July 22, “The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”
In an open letter to management published July 26 on Polygon, nearly 3,100 Activision Blizzard employees urged the company to address its practices. The Santa Monica-based gaming firm employs around 9,500 people globally, according to funding database PitchBook Data Inc.
Alegre said in his Tuesday memo, “Many of us already know Mike and Jen and have experienced their leadership, their empathy and their unwavering sense of accountability: Jen is an 18-year company veteran and the former head of Vicarious Visions studio. As Executive Vice President of Development at Blizzard, she has been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Mike has been in the technology and gaming industries for over 20 years, including 7 years as a senior executive at Microsoft’s XBOX division. Most recently Mike was Executive Vice President & General Manager of Platform and Technology at Blizzard overseeing Battle.net and our Development Services organizations.”
He concluded: “With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence. With Jen and Mike assuming their new roles, J. Allen Brack is leaving the company to pursue new opportunities.”
Per Activision Blizzard’s bio for Brack, “J. joined Blizzard in January 2006 and held multiple leadership roles prior to being named president in October 2018. He served as executive producer for World of Warcraft, the #1 subscription-based MMORPG in the world, overseeing every aspect of development and operations for the game. Under J.’s direction, World of Warcraft has captivated millions of players worldwide and received a steady stream of substantial content updates, including multiple expansions that rank among the fastest-selling PC games of all time.”