The eyes of the industry have been fixed on the on-going lawsuit filed against Activision-Blizzard by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, in which the company was recently accused of destroying evidence.
Now, after a period of speculation, Blizzard has officially announced that Overwatch hero McCree's name will be changed.
What's McCree got to do with a sexual harassment lawsuit, you ask? One of the employees specifically named in the lawsuit and accused of harassment, abuse and discrimination was Jesse McCree, a designer working on the Overwatch team and after whom the character was specifically named.
McCree, the offender, has left the company, and speculation ran rampant about what would happen to McCree, the character. Some Overwatch casters have ceased using the name during broadcasts, referring to the hero simply as the cowboy. At the time they clarified that this was a personal choice not done by mandate from Blizzard.
Today the company announced via Twitter that the character will receive an official name change. The cowboy plays a key role in the next major narrative arc in Overwatch - said arc was scheduled to kick off in September, however the team decided to delay it in order to implement the name change in that content already. Current plans involve releasing this story arc later this year.
A message from the Overwatch team. pic.twitter.com/2W3AV7Pv6X
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) August 26, 2021
To fill the void left by the story content that was planned for September, a new FFA map will be released instead in order to tide fans over until the now delayed story content would be released. We don't know much at all about what this narrative arc would have covered, but we'll learn soon enough.
In the announcement, the Overwatch team also revealed some changes in how they conduct the creation of new characters to avoid a similar situation in the future. Overwatch characters will no longer be named after real people in the employ of Blizzard, and real-world references appearing in the game will be selected with greater care.
The message reiterates that Overwatch was built around "the idea that inclusivity, equity and hope are the building blocks of a better future" and that the team is dedicated to ensuring that the game reflects these values. While the sexual harassment lawsuit is not directly referred to in any way, McCree's departure from the company in its wake is the clear reason behind this move.
The cowboy character's new name has not yet been revealed.
As far as the lawsuit itself is concerned, Jesse McCree was connected to a case of sexual harassment which led to the tragic suicide of an employee who was the victim of said harassment, abuse and discrimination.
Overwatch isn't the only Blizzard game which contained in-game references to employees accused of harassment and improper conduct. References to Alex Afrasiabi - also named in the lawsuit as a harasser and linked to the infamous "Cosby suite" - have been scrubbed from World of Warcraft.
The decision to change the name of McCree is the latest in a long list of direct repercussions enacted by Activision-Blizzard in the wake of the lawsuit, including several departures, sponsorships being broken off and game development being impacted.
However, as little is being done to change the toxic workplace culture, employees are being forced to sign non-disclosure agreements impeding the investigation, a law firm known to prioritize corporate interests was involved and key players like Kotick and Townsend remain in their positions, Activision-Blizzard's responses remain too little too late.
The DFEH isn't letting up, made evident by the recent expansion of the lawsuit to include accusations of destroying evidence. The department has been fighting Riot Games longer than Activision-Blizzard, so it is clear they're not ones to give up easily. This lawsuit is expected to drag on, and be a defining element of this era in video game history.