Blizzard co-leader Jen Oneal leaps into escape pod after just three months in the role

Says she is not 'without hope' for biz


Jen Oneal is ending what has turned out to be a brief stint as co-lead of Blizzard.

“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 Activision Blizzard King at the end of the year,” she announced on Tuesday.

This means Blizzard will be solely led by Mike Ybarra. The publisher also agreed to give a $1m grant to the non-profit Women in Games, according to Oneal, who is a board member of the pro-diversity and pro-equality organization. "This money will be used to fund skill-building and mentorship programs," she said.

Oneal is the latest leading figure to eject from Activision Blizzard, which was accused of fostering a toxic internal culture rife with discrimination. Blizzard chief Allen Brack resigned in August to make way for Oneal and Ybarra to take over as co-leads. Head of global human resources Jesse Meschuk and chief legal officer Claire Hart also left.

This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect

"I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite – I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts," Oneal said in her exit memo.

"This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well. While I am not totally sure what form that will take, I am excited to embark on a new journey to find out."

Oneal is described as an Activision Blizzard veteran; she has held roles from executive veep of development to Vicarious Visions studio head.

The mega-publisher of top games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft has been hit with various bursts of legal action. In July, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing accused execs of enabling a “frat boy culture” in which women were paid less than their male colleagues and staff were subjected to gender and racial discrimination.

Two months later, the SEC launched an investigation into the corporation and has subpoenaed several of Activision Blizzard’s current and former staff, including CEO Bobby Kotick. A group of employees working with the Communications Workers of America union filed a complaint with America's National Labor Relations Board, alleging management intimidated its workers speaking out against the company and illegally obstructed their attempts to form a union.

A spokesperson for the union told The Register that case was withdrawn, and its attorneys are working on refiling a fresh one.

Activision has taken all sorts of measures as it scrambles to fix its public image. It agreed to pay $18m to settle a previous discrimination case with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Kotick apologized for the harm caused by his company, promised to weed out any bad behavior and increase the percentage of women and non-binary people working at the publisher by 50 per cent. He also agreed to take a salary cut to $62,500 without any bonus pay and equity packages. ®


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