Blizzard’s morale takes a hit after co-leader’s surprise resignation


On Tuesday, Activision Blizzard announced its financial results for the period that includes the July filing of the discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit in California and its immediate consequences. The headline for investors is that the company’s revenue outlook for the end of the year is weaker than analysts had expected, but it beat their Q3 guidance with net income of 2. $ 07 billion, improving year over year with the help of Diablo 2: Resurrected.

However, finances appeared to be the secondary topic of the call, as Activision Blizzard executives reiterated their intention to overhaul recruiting and HR practices, and surprised employees with the news that Blizzard co-leader Jen Oneal steps down. The resignation came as a shock and, some say, hurt Blizzard’s morale as it started to improve.

Last week, Activision Blizzard finally responded to a list of demands issued in July by employees who staged a walkout. The company partially gave in to the demand for the removal of compulsory arbitration from employment contracts, agreeing to strike it out for “individual claims of sexual harassment and discrimination”. Among other things, Activision Blizzard has also promised increased pay transparency, recruitment policies that promote diversity and a “zero tolerance policy against harassment,” which will result in immediate termination and “the loss of all future compensation.”

A source within Activision Blizzard told PC Gamer this week that they had witnessed an overall positive response to last week’s announcement. The timing was seen as suspect – the demands were acknowledged just in time to become talking points in Tuesday’s investor call – but the partial victory over arbitrage was seen as a clear accomplishment, and the various Recruitment policies reflect what Activision Blizzard’s individual teams once were. implementation without waiting for a corporate mandate. One thing still considered missing is third-party oversight of hiring and HR practices, including a committee chosen by employees, but the mood leading up to the call for results was certainly better than it ever was. was following a suspicious email from management Fran Townsend earlier in October. .

However, the news that Oneal is stepping down as co-leader of Blizzard just three months after taking the job “killed” any dealership morale boost from last week, the employee said. Oneal and Mike Ybarra replaced former Blizzard boss J Allen Brack, who quit in August following the California lawsuit. With Oneal’s resignation, Ybarra is now Blizzard’s sole leader.

For some, Oneal’s leadership was one of the best reasons to believe in a better future for Blizzard. They are now wondering why Oneal would choose to leave so quickly, which suggests something is not said.

“I am not doing this because I am hopeless for Blizzard, quite the contrary, I am inspired by the passion of everyone here, working with all their hearts towards meaningful and lasting change,” wrote Oneal in a letter to employees. “This energy has inspired me to go out and explore how I can do more to make games and diversity intersect, and I hope to have a wider impact on the industry that will also benefit Blizzard (and other studios). “

Former Blizzard CTO Amy Dunham, who also announced her departure this week, pointed out that Blizzard’s three oldest women have all left this year.

“Before you commit to recruiting more women (usually at the entry level, where people have less choice to turn down opportunities), determine and resolve why all of your senior women are choosing to leave,” she wrote on twitter.

The past three months have seen a number of more resignations, as well as more than 20 departures as a result of HR investigations and new, tougher policies. According to Tuesday’s earnings report, the result is so far unscathed: Call of Duty’s user base holds up on PC and console, while Call of Duty Mobile has seen “double-digit growth in the West. “with a strong increase in income. Blizzard revenue increased 20% year over year due to the release of Diablo 2: Resurrected, Hearthstone enjoys stable popularity and World of Warcraft is “on track” to have its best year without extension in a decade.

However, as Call of Duty: Vanguard releases this month and Warzone’s next big update will be released in December, it was revealed during the earnings call that Blizzard’s next two big games will take more. longer than expected: Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 didn’t have a public release date, but we’ve learned that their internal development timelines have been extended.

Activision Blizzard partly attributed the delays to the departures of company executives. Diablo 4 game director Louis Barriga left the company for unspecified reasons following the July allegations, although a company statement aimed at ensuring “a safe and productive work environment” implied a link. Overwatch executive producer Chacko Sonny left Blizzard in September for reasons unrelated to the trial, and in April Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan also left the company.

Attrition is not a new issue for Activision Blizzard: A former employee recently told PC Gamer that he saw waves of employees leaving voluntarily in parallel with the 2019 and 2020 layoffs. Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4, other long-term consequences of the company’s recent turnover rate may still emerge.

“Our growth opportunities have never been better, but we will not be able to realize all of this growth potential without talent,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, in Tuesday’s earnings call. “And to retain and attract the talent we need, we obviously need to be recognized as the best place to work. This means that we must be the most welcoming and inclusive environment.

According to Kotick, the changes and initiatives announced so far are “just the beginning” of the company’s plans, and employees and shareholders will receive quarterly updates on progress.

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