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What just happened? Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack is leaving his position amid a lawsuit accusing parent company Activision Blizzard of harassment, discrimination, sexism, and fostering a "frat boy" culture. Brack, who was named in the suit, is leaving to "pursue new opportunities."
A statement from Blizzard, which you can read below, explains that Brack is "stepping down" from his position as leader of the studio from today and being replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the company.
Brack released his own statement:
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.
There was also a separate announcement on Activision's investor relations page that reveals Bracks' plans to seek new opportunities.
Brack had been at Blizzard since 2006 and took over the company in 2018, having led development on World of Warcraft. In the lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing nearly two weeks ago, it's alleged that he was aware of the cited behavior as he had received complaints directly but did little more than hand out "slap on the wrist" punishments.
Blizzard's statement notes that Oneal, the former head of Vicarious Visions, joined the company in January as executive vice president of development where she's been working on the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Ybarra, meanwhile, joined in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology following many years at Xbox. He's been overseeing Battle.net.
Know there’s a *lot* going on today but I am on Blizzard Way at the employee walkout. The state of CA is suing Activision Blizzard for a pattern of pay/gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Employees found company’s response to the lawsuit “abhorrent.” pic.twitter.com/qEx59FiydS— Jon peltz (@JonnyPeltz) July 28, 2021
Activision Blizzard's response to the lawsuit has been condemned by many within the games industry. It said the filing included "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past," while Activision Blizzard executive Frances Townsend called it "truly meritless and irresponsible." The company's stance resulted in a mass walkout by employees last week. It also appears that T-Mobile may have terminated its partnership with the Call of Duty and Overwatch leagues over the bad publicity.
Full Blizzard Entertainment statement:
To all members of the Blizzard Community,
We want to let you know about an important leadership change at Blizzard Entertainment.
Starting today, J. Allen Brack will be stepping down as the leader of the studio, and Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will co-lead Blizzard moving forward.
Jen joined Blizzard in January as executive vice president of development, where she's been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Jen is the former head of Vicarious Visions (which is now part of Blizzard Entertainment).
After many years at XBOX, Mike joined the company in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, where he's been overseeing the evolution of Battle.net and our development services organization.
Jen and Mike have more than three decades of gaming industry experience between them. Moving forward, they will share responsibilities over game development and company operations.
Both leaders 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. With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You'll hear more from Jen and Mike soon.