Jen Oneal, who joined Blizzard as new co-leader back in August, has announced she’s stepping down from the role and will leave Activision at the end of the year to explore “how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect”.
Oneal, formerly the boss of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy studio Vicarious Visions, was hired as Blizzard co-leader alongside Mike Ybarra following the departure of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack – who left amid the fallout from the State of California’s ongoing lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, discrimination, and a “frat boy” work culture at the company.
“I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard,” Oneal wrote of her decision to step down on Activision’s website, “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,” Oneal continued, “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.”
Ybarra will now lead Blizzard “effective immediately” and Oneal will transition to a new position within Activision before leaving at the end of the year. Oneal says she’ll spend her remaining time at the company determining how to utilise a $1m USD grant Activision has agreed to give to non-profit organisation Women in Games International – which “cultivates and advances equality and diversity in the global games industry”, and on whose board Oneal serves.
“To everyone at Blizzard, thank you,” Oneal’s statement concludes, “for your honesty, your belief in a better future, and your incredible work ethic, creativity, and passion. You inspired me to find my own path in championing the cause for equality and my hope is that you inspire our players to do the same.”
News of Oneal’s departure and Ybarra’s transition to sole leader of Blizzard follows, perhaps surprisingly, Activision’s recent pledge to increase the number of women and those from under-represented communities in leadership positions over the next ten years.
This was just one of several long-overdue commitments the beleaguered publisher made at the time, including an agreement to drop forced arbitration of future sexual harassment cases – something requested by many employees.
California’s ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit has sent shockwaves throughout Activision Blizzard since its filing in July, leading to employee walkouts, the departure of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack and other high-profile employees, further legal action, and even a separate investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Today’s news follows Activision’s recent announcement that next year’s BlizzCon is now on “pause” as it looks to “reimagine” the event, alongside word of a delay for Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2, potentially pushing the launch of both titles into 2023 at the earliest.