What just happened? Kotaku learned yesterday that Diablo IV director Luis Barriga, World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft, and lead level designer Jesse McCree, no longer work at Blizzard Entertainment. Sources didn't say why, but the departures come amid a lawsuit accusing parent company Activision Blizzard of widespread discrimination and sexual harassment.
Activision Blizzard confirmed the departures to Kotaku via email. "We have a deep, talented roster of developers already in place and new leaders have been assigned where appropriate. 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."
Blizzard announced Diablo IV at the BlizzCon expo in 2019, with Barriga being the one who initially presented the game. This past February, the company revealed it isn't planning to launch the game until sometime after this year. Earlier this month, Blizzard also confirmed it was delaying its upcoming mobile game Diablo Immortal.
McCree, whom the cowboy-themed character in Overwatch is named after, was one of the Blizzard employees seen in the now infamous "Cosby Suite" photo taken at BlizzCon 2013. The suite had an ominous reputation within the company, against which the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit last month accusing it of enabling a "frat boy" culture. McCree had been at the company since 2005.
The departure has boosted requests from fans to change the Overwatch character's name, which started after McCree's connections to the lawsuit's accusations became known. According to Dexerto, Overwatch League casters have even started to avoid saying the character's name, instead referring to him with names like "the cowboy."
A Blizzard spokesperson told Kotaku the company had nothing to do with the casters' decision. Blizzard has already set a precedent by removing World of Warcraft's references to longtime developer Alex Afrasiabi, the owner of the Cosby Suite and one of the people named in the lawsuit.
Huh this is a good idea tbh— Mitch Leslie (@UberShouts) August 10, 2021
LeCraft is also one of the people who appeared in the photo. Kotaku's sources told them Cory Stockton, another developer in the photo, is on leave but still employed at Blizzard.
This is only the latest controversy to hit Activision Blizzard since the lawsuit. Last week, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack stepped down, and it was discovered that T-Mobile had stopped sponsoring Call of Duty and Overwatch competitive leagues.