Blizzard head outlines what 'we are doing to rebuild your trust in Blizzard'

Blizzard's orc statue
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Earlier this week Microsoft announced it intended to acquire Activision Blizzard for an eye-watering $68.7 billion. This is the largest deal in gaming history and the ramifications of it will be felt for years to come, but some of the immediate questions are about a series of harassment lawsuits faced by the company, and ongoing allegations about Blizzard's workplace culture and treatment of female employees.

Former Blizzard president J Allen Brack stepped down in August 2021 in the wake of a lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging widespread discrimination and sexual harassment at the company. He was replaced by Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal, who took over as co-heads of the studio, marking the first time that Blizzard had been led by a woman.

Three months later, however, Oneal announced that she would leave Blizzard by the end of the 2021. It later emerged that, during her time in post, she had been paid less than her male counterpart.

Following announcement of the proposed Microsoft acquisition, Blizzard head Mike Ybarra has written a blogpost addressing the deal and the company's plans with regards to workplace culture.

"I’ve been leading Blizzard for a couple of months now, and in addition to the exciting news this week, I want to share some initial thoughts as we strive to put our team and players at the forefront of everything we do," writes Ybarra.

"2021 was challenging for all of us. As individuals, we care about treating everyone around us with respect and dignity. As professionals, we care deeply about our crafts, and we want to work in the most supportive and safe environment possible.

"Our top priority—now and into the future—is the work we are doing to rebuild your trust in Blizzard."

A selection of key Blizzard characters.

(Image credit: Activision-Blizzard)

Ybarra touches on some of the feedback Blizzard has been receiving and goes on to highlight some of the changes the company is making.

"We’re measuring our executive and management teams directly against culture improvement. This means their (and my own) success and compensation will directly depend on our overall success in creating a safe, inclusive, and creative work environment at Blizzard."

It also sounds like Blizzard didn't have much of an HR department before or, at least, it wasn't doing much. Ybarra says the company will soon hire "a Culture leader who will help us maintain the best aspects of what we have today, and change and evolve where needed to ensure everyone brings their best self to Blizzard" alongside "a new organizational leader for Human Resources who will build trust" and "a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leader solely focused on our progress across multiple efforts in this area."

The company now has clear internal guidelines about appropriate conduct which applies to all employees including, Ybarra points out, leadership and management. The post also details further internal work, including setting goals around representation and an "upwards feedback program" for evaluating management.

The diablo 3 darkening of Tristram logo.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Finally, Ybarra briefly talks games. "We also know we need to deliver content to our players on a more regular basis and innovate both in and beyond our existing games. We have some exciting things to announce, and I’ll be sharing more next week."

It was announced in November 2021 that both Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 would be delayed, and they're only the ones we know about. World of Warcraft's Shadowlands expansion went down well on release but the game has subsequently felt stagnant (albeit still wildly successful), while Starcraft seems to be on something of a hiatus. Lost Vikings reboot anyone?

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."