Blizzard Entertainment’s leadership announced in an email to the company that it has parted ways with three employees in the wake of a companywide lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and discrimination. “Diablo 4” director Luis Barriga, “Diablo 4” lead designer Jesse McCree and “World of Warcraft” designer Jonathan LeCraft are no longer working at Blizzard, the company said Wednesday.
“We have a deep, talented roster of developers already in place and new leaders have been assigned where appropriate. We are confident in our ability to continue progress, deliver amazing experiences to our players, and move forward to ensure a safe, productive work environment for all,” a spokesman with parent company Activision Blizzard told The Washington Post.
In a companywide email, new Blizzard co-leaders Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal wrote to staff Wednesday afternoon: “We wanted to let you know several employees across two game teams are no longer with the company. New leaders are in place and we are confident in our ability to continue progress and deliver amazing experiences to our players. Those teams have been informed and are moving forward to ensure a safe, productive environment for all.”
The company did not explain why Barriga, McCree and LeCraft are no longer employed, but several current employees confirmed to The Washington Post that all three were fired. McCree and LeCraft were photographed in a hotel room at the company’s 2013 convention, BlizzCon, alongside Alex Afrasiabi, who was terminated in June of 2020 over multiple allegations. The hotel room in the photograph was referenced by Blizzard employees as the "Cosby Suite,” according to the lawsuit, in reference to former comedian Bill Cosby, whose conviction for sexual assault was recently overturned.
The lawsuit against Activision Blizzard was filed by the state of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing on July 20.
“I’m glad that the company finally has started to do something about its problems," a current Blizzard employee told The Post on the condition of anonymity since they were unauthorized to speak to the media. “This is only a first step, though. My faith hasn’t been won back because there are many bad players who are still around. The problems won’t be fixed until those people are dealt with as well.”
The employee added that they expect the projects on which Barriga, McCree and LeCraft were working to proceed apace.
“For now, I think the projects will be fine," the employee said. "'Diablo 4′ already filled the game director position and will fill in the lead position quickly as well. [In 2019, former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack] once called the ['Diablo 4′] project ‘mission critical.’ So there will be very little which gets in the way of its release.”
These recent moves come in the wake of Brack stepping down as the company’s president on Aug. 3, the same day the company confirmed a report of the departure of Jesse Meschuk, a longtime leader in Blizzard’s human resources department.
Inside the Activision Blizzard lawsuit
On July 20, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread, gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. Here’s what you need to know:
- The lawsuit followed an investigation by the DFEH that began in 2018 in response to complaints from Activision Blizzard employees. Activision Blizzard disputes the allegations, saying the lawsuit’s claims were “distorted, and in many cases false.”
- 17 current and former employees interview by The Post detailed a workplace culture where women faced multiple incidents of harassment from men in leadership positions, and alcohol was free-flowing.
- A Nov. 16 report from The Wall Street Journal alleged that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct allegations at the company but did not inform the board of directors. The report resulted in an employee walkout, a letter from an Activision shareholder group and a petition signed by employees demanding the resignation of several executives, including Kotick.
- The DFEH lawsuit alleges that J. Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard Entertainment, was personally aware of employee complaints of sexual harassment directed at men with senior positions at the company. It also alleges he did not effectively mitigate those issues. Brack stepped down from his position as president on Aug. 3. The same day, Activision Blizzard confirmed that an executive in Blizzard’s human resources department was no longer with the company.
- In response to the lawsuit and the ensuing statements of company leaders, Activision Blizzard employees wrote an open letter to the company’s leadership on July 26, rebuking them what they perceived to be an “abhorrent and insulting” response to the lawsuit. Employees also organized a walkout July 28.
- Several sponsors for Activision Blizzard-run esports leagues have pulled back advertising, The Post reported Aug. 5.
- Content creators on Twitch and YouTube who often feature games made by Activision Blizzard have wrestled with how to approach the topic on their streams and videos.
- Legal experts are interested in the outcome of the lawsuit, noting that the DFEH is highly selective in the cases it chooses to fight in court and that the suit could set a precedent for California labor law.
- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating Activision Blizzard, and has subpoenaed the company and several current and former employees. In a statement, Activision Blizzard said it was cooperating with the investigation.
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