Diablo IV‘s Game Director, Lead Designer, and a World of Warcraft designer are all no longer working at Blizzard Entertainment; amid the Activision Blizzard sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit.
Kotaku initially reported that according to two sources with knowledge; Diablo IV Game Director Luis Barriga, Lead Designer Jesse McCree, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft were all “let go” from Blizzard Entertainment on August 11th.
While the development teams were told of this, the reason was not given. Forbes report according to a source “familiar with conditions at Activision Blizzard” claimed that Barriga and McCree could be described as “super toxic.” Diablo IV is last slated to be coming soon to Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
In addition, Kotaku note that McCree was one of the developers who appeared in the “Cosby Suite” photos. Though some prior staff have insisted the name came from the rooms’ decor being akin to Bill Cosby’s sweater, others paint the hotel room as green room during BlizzCon 2013, where inappropriate comments and actions allegedly took place; including from former World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi.
Lead game designer Cory Stockton was also in the photo, and sources claimed that he was put on leave the week prior.
An Activision Blizzard spokesperson issued a statement to Kotaku, confirming Barriga, McCree, and LeCraft were no longer at Activision Blizzard, and new leaders 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.”
Earlier this month, Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack stepped down, replaced by both Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra as co-leads of the company moving forward.
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment, which may have led to one woman who committed suicide on a company trip, and discrimination for women being paid less and promoted less frequently and after longer periods of time.
Activision Blizzard stated that while “there is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” they felt the Californian report “ includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” An internal email from Activision executive Frances Townsend described the allegations as “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”
In response, almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” It also called for official statements “that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.”
Staff led a walkout on July 28th; listing demands including ending mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, adopting policies to improve representation at all levels of the company, publishing pay data to show women are paid and promoted fairly, and hiring a third party to audit the company’s executive and HR staff.
Sources claimed staff would not be punished for the walkout, and had paid time off. Kotick later stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf.”
Along with bringing in a law firm to conduct an immediate review of Activision Blizzard policies and procedures; Kotick stated the company would investigate all the claims, creating safe spaces for Listening Sessions organized by third parties, an immediate evaluation of managers and leaders, compliance resources for diverse hiring, and removing NPCs from World of Warcraft inspired by those named in the allegations.
The staff stated they were dissatisfied with Kotick’s response to the lawsuit; stating it did not address ending forced arbitration, workers involved in the oversight of hiring and promotion policies, greater pay transparency, or employee selection of a third party to audit the company processes and HR.
Further, almost 500 former and current Ubisoft employees announced their support for Activision Blizzard staff in an open letter; calling for new industry-wide rules and processes. Jeff Strain, a former Blizzard Entertainment developer and founder of Undead Labs, recently called for unionization of the video games industry.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff have demanded WilmerHale not be the third party auditing the company. This is due to an alleged conflict of interest, the law firms alleged “history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action,” and Avakian specializing in “protecting the wealthy and powerful.”
Coca-Cola and State Farm announced they were reassessing their partnerships with Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, pulling their promotions from upcoming events. They join T-Mobile who pulled support from the Call of Duty league shortly after the controversy broke.
Frances Townsend, an Activision Blizzard executive, recently deleted her Twitter account after backlash against her tweet promoting “the problem with whistleblowing.”
Image: Blizzard Entertainment