Overwatch's fan-favourite cowboy character Jesse McCree will be re-named, Blizzard has announced, following the departure of the real-life Jesse McCree from the developer.
Blizzard's veteran of the same name left earlier this month in the wake of California's lawsuit which alleges sexual harassment and a "frat boy" culture at the company, although no specific reason was given for his exit.
The real-life McCree was one of several men apparently pictured posing together on a bed with a photo of disgraced US comedian Bill Cosby. The disturbing picture allegedly showed the interior of the "Cosby suite" - a hotel room once used at BlizzCon for partying.
A message from the Overwatch team. pic.twitter.com/2W3AV7Pv6X— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) August 26, 2021
McCree was also one of the developers whose name appeared in alleged screenshots showing text conversations between Blizzard staff concerning the "Cosby suite", which included suggestions from former World of Warcraft designer Alex Afrasiabi about women brought back to the room.
Afrasiabi was kicked out of Blizzard last year after an internal investigation concerning his behaviour. Earlier this month, Blizzard admitted his departure had been due to "misconduct in his treatment of other employees" and said a World of Warcraft character based on him would be removed from the game, along with accompanying content.
A message from the Overwatch team was posted to the game's official Twitter last night, and included confirmation that it was changing its policies so that no further in-game characters would be named after employees.
Additionally, Blizzard today told The Washington Post (via Kotaku) that references to other former Blizzard employees involved in the alleged "Cosby suite" picture would also be scrubbed from its games. This includes nods to former Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga and former World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft.
Here is Blizzard's statement in full:
"We built the Overwatch universe around the idea that inclusivity, equity and hope are the building blocks of a better future. They are central to the game and to the Overwatch team.
"As we continue to discuss how we best live up to our values and to demonstrate our commitment to creating a game world that reflects them, we believe it's necessary to change the name of the hero currently known as McCree to something that better represents what Overwatch stands for.
"We realise that any change to such a well-loved and central hero in the game's fiction will take time to roll out correctly, and we'll share updates as this work progresses. In the near term, we had planned to kick off a narrative arc in September supported with new story and game content, of which McCree was a key part. Since we want to integrate this change into that story arc, we will be delaying the new arc until later this year and instead launch a new FFA map this September. Going forward, in-game characters will no longer be named after real employees and we will be more thoughtful and discerning about adding real world references in future Overwatch content.
"This will help reinforce that we're building a fictional universe that is unmistakably different from the real world and better illustrates that the creation of Overwatch is truly a team effort. Work on these updates is underway, and they are just a part of our ongoing commitment to honest reflection and making whatever changes are necessary to build a future worth fighting for. We know that actions speak louder than words, and we hope to show you our commitment to making Overwatch a better experience in-game and continue to make our team the best it can be."