Jen Oneal has stepped down from her role as co-leader of Blizzard, leaving Mike Ybarra as the head of the studio known for making Overwatch, World of Warcraft and Diablo. Oneal will temporarily transition to a new position, but will leave Activision Blizzard (fine, and King) at the end of the year.
Activision Blizzard is facing a handful of lawsuits and investigations into reports of sexual harassment, gropings, and systemic gender discrimination at the studio, stemming from the leadership down. Oneal and Ybarra took over as co-leaders of Blizzard in August after president J. Allen Brack was named in the original California lawsuit, leading to his dismissal. Oneal was the first woman in a president role since Activision’s founding in 1979.
Oneal published an open letter to the Blizzard community, reading in part as follows:
I have made the decision to step away from co-leading Blizzard Entertainment and will transition to a new position before departing ABK at the end of the year. Effective immediately, Mike Ybarra will lead Blizzard. 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.
After months of pressure from employees, shareholders and government agencies, Activision Blizzard ended its policy of forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and discrimination, and implemented a zero-tolerance approach to harassment at the studio. The original California lawsuit is ongoing.
Blizzard announced two big delays alongside news of Oneal’s departure: Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV, neither of which was given a release window.