It’s been an interesting day for Activision/Blizzard with the company still recovering from an ongoing sexual discrimination lawsuit that lead to company president J. Allen Brack stepping down from his position back in early August. Today we’ve now learned that one of Brack’s replacements, co-lead Jen Oneal, is stepping down from her role only 3 months in. Oneal was previously the head of Vicarious Visions who merged with Blizzard at the start of the year and she took co-lead position alongside Mike Ybarra who worked in a leadership role at Microsoft before joining Blizzard in 2019.
With the news of Oneal’s departure from the company, it means that Ybarra will take the sole leadership role. This news comes directly from Oneal herself who wrote the following in a Blizzard news post:
“I want you to hear from me personally that I have made the decision to step away from co-leading Blizzard Entertainment and will transition to a new position before departing ABK [Activision Blizzard King] at the end of the year… I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite–I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts. This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well. While I am not totally sure what form that will take, I am excited to embark on a new journey to find out.”
Oneal’s departure is certainly a little strange after just 3 months, although it does appear as though the leave is amicable. In fact, Oneal will leave with a grant from Activision/Blizzard, pledging to donate US $1 million to Women in Games International, a non-profit organisation in which Oneal is on the board.
“I want you to know I believe so strongly in Mike and the rest of Blizzard’s leadership both in terms of Blizzard’s culture and Blizzard’s games. Blizzard’s best days are ahead. I truly believe that. I also am hoping this letter helps you to think about what you can do to make everyone around you–no matter their gender, race, or identity–feel welcome, comfortable, and free to be themselves.”
In related news, two incredibly high-profile games in Blizzard’s upcoming portfolio have been delayed. This news comes from an earnings report that, amongst other things, specifically mention a delay on release for Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV.
“As we have worked with new leadership in Blizzard and within the franchises themselves, particularly in certain key creative roles, it has become apparent that some of the Blizzard content planned for next year will benefit from more development time to reach its full potential… While we are still planning to deliver a substantial amount of content from Blizzard next year, we are now planning for a later launch for Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV than originally envisaged.”
It’s a disappointing little announcement from Blizzard, especially with so much other controversy surrounding the company right now. These two games are easily amongst the most anticipated across all of gaming but it sounds like we won’t see either release until 2023 at the earliest. We already knew Overwatch 2 would be impacted by Jeff Kaplan’s departure back in April of this year, now we’ll have to wait and see if Oneal’s departure will further impact the development on these games. Regardless, it will be interesting to see where this company goes from here.