Blizzard president J. Allen Brack has exited the embattled developer, Activision Blizzard has announced.
J. Allen Brack is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities", Activision Blizzard said.
Activision Blizzard has made Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra "co-leaders" of Blizzard.
"Jen and Mike will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company," Activision Blizzard president and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Alegre said in a statement.
"Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards."
Neither Oneal nor Ybarra were mentioned as Blizzard presidents or CEOs, suggesting Activision Blizzard is taking a firmer grip over the maker of World of Warcraft and Overwatch.
Ex-Vicarious Visions head Oneal became EVP of development at Blizzard when the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 developer merged into Blizzard to help develop Diablo 2: Resurrected.
Ybarra was a veteran member of Microsoft's Xbox team before joining Blizzard in 2019 to become chief of Battle.net.
Alegre highlighted the pair's "empathy and their unwavering sense of accountability".
"With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence," Alegre added.
Blizzard issued a statement of its own on the change, saying Brack is "stepping down" as leader of the studio.
"Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust," Blizzard said.
"With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You'll hear more from Jen and Mike soon."
Blizzard's statement also includes a message from Brack:
"I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realise its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change. I anticipate they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and that they can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the components of our culture that make Blizzard so special."
Brack's statement does not mention the lawsuit or provide any reasoning for his departure, nor does it offer an apology.
Activision Blizzard is currently amid the fallout from the recent lawsuit filed by the State of California alleging pervasive discrimination and harassment against women at the World of Warcraft maker.
More than 2000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed a petition calling the company's response to the discrimination lawsuit "abhorrent and insulting".
Activision Blizzard's initial public comment on the lawsuit was to strongly deny its claims. An email then sent to staff by Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who was the assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism to George W. Bush from 2004 to 2008, was heavily criticised by staff.
An email sent by Brack to staff addressing the allegations from the lawsuit struck a markedly different tone. In it, Brack called the allegations "extremely troubling", and said he'd meet with staff to answer their questions and "discuss how we can move forward".
"I disdain 'bro culture' and have spent my career fighting against it," Brack said in the email.
"I feel angry, sad, and a host of other emotions," he continued, "but I also feel grateful to work alongside a set of leaders and thousands of employees who join me in their commitment to continuous improvement."
Soon after, Blizzard staff were reported to have internally resurfaced a video from BlizzCon 2010 that shows Brack and other senior World of Warcraft developers "laughing off" a question from a woman who asked for the MMO's female characters to be less sexualised.
The question is asked at the 4:24 mark in the video below:
Amid a significant share price fall, Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick told staff the company's initial response was "tone deaf". Hundreds of employees staged a walkout on Wednesday at Blizzard's Irvine, California headquarters, with many more virtually taking part around the world.
In the days since more disturbing allegations emerged, and employees who organised the Blizzard walkout said management had not even acknowledged their demands, which include ending mandatory arbitration clauses in worker contracts, hiring and promoting more diverse candidates, publishing salary data and allowing a third party to audit Activision's "reporting and human resources procedures".
The announcement of Brack's exit from Blizzard comes just hours ahead of the reporting of Activision Blizzard's second quarter 2021 financial results and its accompanied conference call, during which Brack and Bobby Kotick had been expected to answer questions from analysts about recent events. Shares in the company remain down nearly eight percent over the last five days.
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