It’s been a very bad couple of weeks for gamer developer Activision Blizzard. After California sued the company for its overwhelming “frat boy workplace culture”, leadership at the company came out with such a meh response that more than a thousand employees signed a letter rebuking it and subsequently staged a walkout in protest.
That kerfuffle has come to a head today: Blizzard’s president is leaving his position effective immediately. He’ll be replaced by two other executives at the company — Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra — who will “co-lead” the company moving forward.
Notably absent from the company’s announcement is any mention of why Brack is leaving his role. “We wanted to let you know about an important leadership change at Blizzard Entertainment,” the statement reads. “Starting today, J. Allen Brack will be stepping down as the leader of the studio.”
But then again, the reasons for Brack’s departure have been made abundantly clear by Activision Blizzard’s general response to this nightmare.
His team was named specifically, so… — J. Allen Brack hasn’t been leading Blizzard Entertainment for all that long. Before he got the top spot, he was at the helm of the World of Warcraft team. Which will stand out if you’ve read the full allegations against the company because, well, the World of Warcraft team was specifically cited as one of the worst at the company.
World of Warcraft is one of Blizzard’s most important franchises and has been for a very long time. Because of that prowess, the lawsuit alleges that the World of Warcraft team was basically “untouchable.”
Brack reportedly sent out an email to employees after the lawsuit surfaced, in which he stated that the behavior outlined in the suit was “completely unacceptable.”
Lots of inaction — Activision Blizzard’s employees have been very clear about what they’d like the company to do in order to mitigate the damage done by this toxic workplace over the years. Topping that list is a demand for full investigations of all executive staff members.
All that’s really happened thus far — besides Brack’s leaving — is that CEO Bobby Kotick said the company would conduct a thorough review of its policies to prevent similar harassment in the future. And then he went ahead and hired the law firm WilmerHale to review those policies... a firm best know for helping Amazon with union-busting. So, you know, probably not the greatest way to start repairing your company’s image, let alone actually fixing what’s wrong with it internally.
It’s unclear whether or not co-leaders Ybarra and Oneal will be more open to actually making meaningful changes at the company. Ybarra did say he attended the employee walkout protest; if we lean on the side of optimism, that could certainly be a good sign for what’s to come from the company’s new leadership.