The storm clouds around Activision-Blizzard are showing no signs of clearing up, and while there haven't been many new developments since the motion from the company to dismiss the sexual lawsuit case was rejected, other changes have taken place. Most notably, one of J. Allen Brack's replacements has stepped down just 3 months after taking the job.
Jen Oneal, who replaced Brack alongside Mike Ybarra after the previous president was removed in the wake of the lawsuit's controversy, is relinquishing her post effective immediately and leaving the company entirely at the end of the year. Currently no plans to have another co-president are in place, and Ybarra is set to lead the company alone.
Oneal is moving to a new position in Women in Games International, a non-profit organization supporting women in the video game industry, representing their interests and working to increase workplace equality and safety. Oneal already was a board member in WIGI, but will be taking an even more active role in the organization.
Activision-Blizzard has made a $1 million grant to WIGI, and among Oneal's first responsibilities at the non-profit will be organizing how that grant will be utilized and allocated. She is only leaving ABK at the end of the year, but leaving her leadership position immediately.
I want you to hear from me personally that I have made the decision to step away from co-leading Blizzard Entertainment and will transition to a new position before departing ABK at the end of the year.
Oneal expressed in her post announcing the resignation that this move is not motivated by a lack of hope in the company - it would be easy to assume as much, considering the way things have been going, with accusations of evidence destruction and more. Instead, Oneal claims to have been inspired by the passion of Activision-Blizzard employees.
I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting changes with their whole hearts.
Those same employees faced a crackdown of new NDAs following the whole lawsuit situation going nuclear, which were used to discourage them from speaking to the authorities about any kind of harassment they might have suffered or witnessed at the company. Recently, maintained pressure forced the company to drop forced arbitration clauses.
Based on what sources within the company have shared with the press, this resignation came as a major surprise to many at Blizzard, and morale has tanked as a result. According to an employee that spoke to PC Gamer anonymously, Oneal being co-president of Blizzard is what gave workers hope that actual meaningful change will come to the company.
Not too long ago, the company revealed a number of concessions, and partially capitulated to the demands of those seeking to protect the rights and interests of the workers. Alongside the previously mentioned cessation of forced arbitration, CEO Bobby Kotick took a major pay cut - mostly performative, as executives make the most money off multi-million dollar bonuses to which he is still entitled, hiring practices championing greater diversity, pay-transparency, zero-tolerance regarding harassment and more.
This seemed like the first major win in the on-going lawsuit. Many offending high-ranking personnel left the company before and had references removed from games, but that was damage control rather than a genuine attempt to improve conditions. The concessions conveniently came just before an investor call, so even this was a tactical move, but a win is a win, right?
Whatever positive atmosphere the announcement of these changes generated was sucked out of Blizzard when Oneal revealed the surprise resignation, which reportedly raised a lot of red flags among employees who placed their faith in her leadership. Now, many are concerned that the concessions were hollow and performative, and something else is happening at the company which recently tried having the entire lawsuit dismissed.
As pointed out by former Blizzard technical director Amy Dunham as part of her own resignation from the company, Blizzard lost three of its most senior female personnel this year, including Oneal, which definitely does not bode well for the future.
Despite the turbulence, Activision-Blizzard is chugging along. Thanks to contributions from Diablo 2: Resurrected year-over-year revenue is showing growth, and the upcoming Call of Duty: Vanguard release doesn't seem to be affected by the lawsuit and surrounding controversy. Meanwhile Vicarious Visions has been fully engulfed by the ABK morass and will lose its unique name, to be rebranded into another Blizzard studio.
There have been hiccups amid all this, though - following a recent announcement that BlizzCon 2022 is cancelled and the entire event is on indefinite hold, the company also revealed that both Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 have been delayed with no new release window made public for either game. Since Blizzard hadn't announced release plans for either yet, it isn't clear how much this internal delay will affect development on either title.
One thing is for certain - we don't see the lawsuit or its fallout clearing up anytime this year.