Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack stepped down from his position shortly after Activision Blizzard was served with a lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination within the company. The lawsuit shifted public focus towards Activision Blizzard, causing both employee and customer walkouts and protests.
According to IGN, Blizzard announced that a 15-year Blizzard veteran and company president, J. Allen Brack, whose name is mentioned in the lawsuit, has resigned his position at the company to “pursue new opportunities.” Brack was working as leader of the World of Warcraft development team prior to his ascension to studio head in 2018, during which he was described as an inspiring leader who showed unwavering commitment to Blizzard’s community. He will be replaced by “co-leaders” Jen Oneal from Vicarious Visions and Mike Ybarra from Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass.
Both Ybarra and Oneal are relatively recent additions to Blizzard’s leadership, joining the company in 2019 and 2021, respectively. However, the reason behind their naming as the company’s co-leaders might stem from the fact that they’re both seen as more detached from the allegations reported in the lawsuit. Activision Blizzard, best known for their Call of Duty and World of Warcraft titles, has been under intense public pressure over the last couple of weeks, following a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
The DHEF lawsuit linked Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture to a “frat house” with a prevailing culture of sexual harassment towards women. This included the team behind World of Warcraft, whose members would make derogatory comments about rape and engage in demeaning behavior. Former senior creator on the World of Warcraft team, Alex Afrasiabi, was named a “top-level” harasser who allegedly used his position to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions. The now-former president of the company, J. Allen Brack, reportedly had several conversations with Afrasiabi about his misconduct, opting for a “slap on the wrist” methodology instead of other, more severe but well-deserved measures.
Activision Blizzard has since, with J. Allen Brack as acting company president, denied allegations, calling the reports filed with the lawsuit distorted and, in many cases, false. However, many of Blizzard’s current and former employees found the company’s response to be “abhorrent and insulting,” to which they responded by organizing work stoppage, walkouts, and protests, both physically and virtually. In addition, many of Blizzard’s customers, fans of their games, have called for log-offs during the protests as a sign of support for protesters and those wronged by Blizzard.
On a larger scale of things, J. Allen Brack’s resignation marks yet another high-profile departure from Blizzard Entertainment after Jeff Kaplan left the company earlier this year. Of course, this drain of talent, at least regarding Kaplan’s departure, wouldn’t do Blizzard any favors, lest Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra weren’t added to the company’s leadership. However, it’s entirely possible that, under their leadership, things within the company might finally make a turn for the better and foster a different workplace culture – one based on diversity, inclusion, and equality.