Blizzard co-leader Jen Oneal leaves for women-in-game development nonprofit

Jen Oneal, who took over leadership of Blizzard Entertainment with Mike Ybarra in August, has stepped down from that role, Activision Blizzard announced Tuesday. Ybarra will continue alone as Blizzard’s top executive, effective immediately.

In a note to Blizzard employees and fans of their games, Oneal said she would be taking on a new role with the nonprofit organization Women in Games International (WIGI), starting with a $1 million grant from Activision Blizzard to the organization. Oneal said she would be leaving Activision Blizzard by the end of the year.

Oneal and Ybarra took over Blizzard’s leadership after former president J. Allen Brack stepped down in early August. Brack’s resignation followed the state of California filing a lawsuit, alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, against Activision Blizzard in late July.

It also came after a large employee demonstration against a toxic “frat boy” workplace alleged to permeate the company, Blizzard Entertainment in particular, and an apology from Activision chief executive Bobby Kotick.

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“As I’ve listened to the stories from people all over Blizzard and been inspired by their courage and conviction, I’ve been thinking about the potential of what I can do as an individual to create the most meaningful change,” Oneal said in the statement. The grant will fund skill-building and mentorship programs at WIGI, she said.

“I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite,” Oneal said. “I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting changes with their whole hearts.”

Oneal is already a board member of WIGI, an organization “that cultivates and advances equality and diversity in the global games industry,” she said. Oneal added that her new role is not yet entirely clear, but that she will “explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect.”

Oneal was formerly the studio head for Vicarious Visions, which was folded into Blizzard in January. She became executive vice president of development at Blizzard following the announcement. Albany, New York-based Vicarious Visions was moved over to support Blizzard development; Activision had owned it since 2005 (Activision and Blizzard merged in 2008). Last week, Vicarious Visions employees were told the studio would lose its name, which dates to 1991 and merge fully with Blizzard, and it will be renamed as one of Blizzard’s satellite studios.

Also on Thursday, Activision Blizzard’s executive leadership told investors that development on Blizzard’s Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 is delayed. Neither game had an announced launch date or window, and investors weren’t told what the new timeframe for their delivery is, either.

“These are two of the most eagerly anticipated titles in the industry, and our teams have made great strides towards completion in recent quarters,” the company said. “But we believe giving the teams some extra time to complete production and continue growing their creative resources to support the titles after launch will ensure that these releases delight and engage their communities for many years into the future.”

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