Blizzard boss Mike Ybarra outlined the studio’s immediate plans to address its culture, including several of the issues raised in the ongoing Activision Blizzard lawsuit, in a new letter to players.
“Our top priority – now and into the future – is the work we are doing to rebuild your trust in Blizzard,” Ybarra said in a blog post (opens in new tab) titled “Putting our teams and players at the forefront of everything we do.”
The meat of the post details steps taken to “improve our culture” and “communication with the community.” For starters, Ybarra says that the “success and compensation” of Blizzard executives and managers will be measured against the studio’s ability to make “a safe, inclusive, and creative work environment.”
This echoes the pay cut taken by CEO Bobby Kotick in October, who committed to “transformational gender-related goals” at the time. With Microsoft now poised to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, and reports indicating that Kotick will leave the company once the deal is closed, the CEO is on track to receive a roughly $400 million payout based on his personal stake in the company and the deal’s current evaluation.
Blizzard is also hiring to support internal resources dedicated to monitoring and improving its culture. “All too often, this important effort falls to employee resource groups, filled with people who already have full-time jobs,” Ybarra says. To this end, the studio has established positions for a culture leader, a new HR organizational leader, and a DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) leader. Blizzard is still in the process of staffing these teams.
In a similar vein, the studio’s compliance and investigation teams have tripled in size, Ybarra says. The studio head says Blizzard has also “shared representation data internally with our teams” and built an “upward feedback program” meant to ensure “that employees have confidence in evaluating management.”
“These actions are just the beginning of the work that lies ahead for Blizzard,” Ybarra concludes, promising more details to come next week.
It’s important to remember that Ybarra was working alongside Jen Oneal as studio co-lead until very recently. Oneal and Ybarra were appointed to replace J. Allen Brack, but Oneal announced her resignation not long afterward. According to a report from IGN (opens in new tab), Oneal was paid less than Ybarra and didn’t receive an offer for equal pay until after her resignation, despite repeated requests from both her and Ybarra.
“I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard,” Oneal said in her departure letter, “quite the opposite – I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts.”
This morning, QA testers at Activision-owned Call of Duty: Warzone studio, Raven Software, formed North America’s first major video game union.