Blizzard today announced sweeping changes at the top of the company, with President J. Allen Brack leaving his role following a swathe of abuse allegations over the past month or so. He will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who have been appointed “co-leaders” of the company, and will look to steady the ship following some self-inflicted rough waters.
Ybarra was a 20-year veteran of Microsoft who left for Blizzard in 2019, with his role at MS being Corporate Vice-President of Gaming, working on projects including the XBox, Xbox 360, and XBox One. Oneal was previously Studio Head at Vicarious Visions, known for their work on franchises like Guitar Hero and Destiny 2, and has been in game development for decades, having worked as a tester in the late 90s.
Brack joined the company back in 2006, and held numerous positions before being appointed President in 2018, and was the most senior figure at the company. He was named in the recent investigation in relation to his handling of the Alex Afrasiabi situation, and his decision not to take disciplinary action against a known abuser within the firm drew criticism from fans and employees alike.
Brack had previously come under fire for his handling of the “Blitzchung” situation, where Hearthstone player Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung was banned and punished for expressing support of his country during a post-game interview. Brack’s departure marks the end of an era for Blizzard, with this the first time the company has appointed “outsiders” to such senior roles, no doubt in reaction to the controversy around staff abuse that has dominated headlines.
The appointment of a female lead is an interesting choice following the allegations that female staff were unsafe and abused on Brack’s watch, as is Blizzard’s choice of language in their press release on the decision, where they chose to emphasize the "empathy and unwavering sense of accountability" of the pair. It should also be noted that Brack’s role as President has seemingly been retired for now, with Ybarra and Oneal "co-leaders".
The company is set for their quarterly earnings call today, which would traditionally have seen Brack involved, making the timing more interesting still. Blizzard has stated that Brack is leaving to "pursue new opportunities", with no news yet as to what severance package he can expect to receive after fifteen years of employment.