President of Blizzard Entertainment J. Allen Brack resigned today after weeks of controversy over the company’s alleged culture of sexism. On July 20, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a explosive combination alleging widespread gender discrimination within Blizzard’s parent company, Activision Blizzard.
Employees at Activision Blizzard to say Brack’s departure is just one step towards resolving systemic issues. “No one is responsible for the culture of Blizzard; the problems at ABK go beyond Blizzard and require systemic change, “tweeted the Activision Blizzard King Workers Alliance, an” organized group of current Activision Blizzard Inc. employees committed to defending our right to a safe and fair workplace ”.
Blizzard’s Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will succeed Brack as co-chairs. Oneal was previously studio director for Vicarious Visions, known for developing the Tony hawk and Skylanders series. (Activision acquired the studio in 2005.) Oneal has been involved in several initiatives to promote women in leadership. Ybarra has been with Blizzard for about two years as Executive Vice President. He was previously corporate vice president of Xbox at Microsoft, where he worked for 19 years.
“I have no doubts that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and accelerate the pace of change,” Brack wrote in a message posted on Blizzard.com. “I anticipate that they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the elements of our culture that make Blizzard so special.” Brack has been with Blizzard since 2006, most recently as Executive Producer of World of warcraft. He has been President of Blizzard since October 2018. Blizzard’s head of human resources, Jesse Meschuk, is also no longer with the company, Bloomberg. reports.
“It has become clear to executives at J. Allen Brack and Activision Blizzard that Blizzard Entertainment needs new direction and leadership given the critical work ahead in terms of corporate culture, game development and innovation, ”the company said in a statement to WIRED.
This morning’s announcement crowns weeks of turmoil at Activision Blizzard. The DFEH complaint has released harrowing details about the company’s so-called “frat boy” culture, alleging inequalities ranging from wage disparity to the permissiveness of sexual misconduct. Brack is one of the few people specifically referenced in the costume. The DFEH alleges that it has received “numerous complaints of unlawful harassment, discrimination and reprisals”, including concerning former World of warcraft senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi. Afrasiabi was reportedly known to sexually harass female employees, and around 2013 he was said to have occupied a Blizz Con sequel dubbed the “Cosby Suite. “ Afrasiabi was fired in 2020 following an investigation, a spokesperson Recount Kotaku.
On July 23, shortly after the DFEH investigation became public, Brack emailed employees calling the allegations “extremely disturbing.” In that memo, Brack recalled that when Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, offered him the job, “one of the first things I mentioned was revered Brack family saint, Gloria Steinem.” Brack also noted that he could not comment on the details of the DFEH case as it was an open investigation.
While Brack’s email sounded somewhat conciliatory, Activision Blizzard’s management was more broadly dismissive. A spokesperson’s statement claimed that the DFEH complaint includes “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” Fran Townsend, Activision Blizzard’s chief compliance officer, called the lawsuit “truly baseless and irresponsible.”
The reaction from employees and fans was fierce. Activision Blizzard employees, especially those who faced discrimination at the company, felt the response lacked both accountability and empathy. Hundreds of Activision, Blizzard and King employees, all under Activision Blizzard, have started to coordinate to show solidarity with these victims. More than 3,000 current employees have signed a letter condemning the response from their leaders. In another letter, employee organizers called for an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts. Their demands also included pay transparency, recruitment policies that promote diversity, and the creation of an employee-appointed task force to review human resources and management staff. (Kotick then apologized for the initial “inaudible” responses and noted he would assess executives, verify hiring practices, and investigate complaints.)