Oneal and Ybarra stepped in as co-leaders of Blizzard following president J. Allen Brack’s resignation in August. Brack resigned after becoming one of multiple focal points of California’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment’s lawsuit against Activision for sex discrimination in the workplace.
Oneal will transition to a separate role at Blizzard until she departs at the end of the year. Ybarra now leads Blizzard effective immediately.
Oneal served as co-leader of Blizzard for just under three months. She originally worked as the head of Vicarious Visions, which was owned by Activision and later merged under Blizzard’s umbrella. She had worked with Activision for more than 20 years.
In a blog post, Oneal elaborated on her decision to depart Blizzard. Oneal said she intends to focus on promoting diversity and inclusion in the video game industry, but that she’s not yet sure what form that will take.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Oneal added that Activision-Blizzard-King (ABK) is supporting Oneal’s efforts by agreeing to make a $1 million grant to Women in Games International, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles that promotes economic and gender equality in the industry. Oneal serves as a board member of WIGI.
Blizzard COO Daniel Alegre publicly released an email originally sent to employees elaborating on plans for the company and Oneal’s departure.
“[Ybarra] and the rest of Blizzard’s leadership team are wholeheartedly committed to our people, and I have the utmost confidence they will ensure Blizzard will continue to create excellent games that connect the world while continuing to build a culture of respect and inclusiveness,” Alegre wrote.
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick told GamesBeat that he remains confident in Oneal’s ability to lead.
“I think she really wants to go and transform the industry,” Kotick said. Her mission in life is making great games and transforming the industry so that gaming, as more women enter the workforce, is more inviting and welcoming to women. It will be a great opportunity for us to partner with her as she leads the charge.”
What Oneal and Ybarra’s responsibilities included remains somewhat vague. Both were relatively recent additions to Blizzard, affording them some perceived distance from a longstanding alleged company culture of sexual discrimination and harassment. In his resignation statement, Brack said Oneal and Ybarra “will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change.”
Oneal’s first public statement as co-leader of Blizzard was an assurance towards shareholders that both the Diablo and Overwatch sequels were making “great progress.”
Blizzard’s most recent pledges include plans to introduce a zero tolerance harassment policy, a 50% increase in women and non-binary people hired by the company, diversity investments, waiving the company’s required arbitration for sexual harassment and discrimination claims, increased visibility on pay equity, and quarterly progress updates.
Kotick has also pledged to reduce his salary to California’s minimum of $62,500 while receiving no bonuses or equity.
Activision-Blizzard announced during Tuesday’s shareholder’s call that Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 have been delayed yet again.
Correction: Activision Blizzard has clarified the timeline around Jen Oneal’s departure announcement. The article has been updated to reflect the new information.