Blizzard’s no longer too long ago publicized sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by the articulate of California is real the most recent in a long string of controversies. Between large layoffs, a mammoth quantity of reports on its toxic place of work, and highly anticipated launches reportedly sabotaged by mismanagement, the final few years catch dramatically altered the notion of what vulnerable to be PC gaming’s darling developer.
This timeline covers Blizzard’s most considerable controversies and high-profile departures since 2018. These events aid paint a super image of Blizzard’s recent turmoil over the previous few years and could moreover give some truly helpful context in its changing company tradition and the recent allegations in opposition to it.
WoW avid gamers are pissed about Fight for Azeroth
Basically the indispensable half of 2018 used to be rather restful for Blizzard, but shortly after Fight for Azeroth launched in August, World of Warcraft avid gamers were up in palms. Early in its beta, avid gamers started complaining about original systems indulge in Azerite Armor being too confusing and unrewarding, but it completely gave the impression indulge in Blizzard wasn’t making any obvious modifications essentially essentially based mostly on that feedback. Gamers were upset by the non-existent verbal substitute from the advance personnel about long standing points. By September, things were so unfriendly that sport director Ion Hazzikostas issued an apology to the community and promised to be more communicative and fix Fight for Azeroth’s many concerns.
Mike Morhaime steps down after 27 years
Morhaime had been with Blizzard since he co-founded the studio in 1991. Changing him as president used to be J. Allen Brack, who had beforehand served as World of Warcraft’s executive producer.
Diablo Immortal’s surprise announcement outrages fans
There used to be a quantity of stress on Blizzard to wow audiences at BlizzCon 2018. World of Warcraft fans were aloof upset in regards to the articulate of Fight for Azeroth, and its developers rolled out an ambitious roadmap of updates in an strive and beautiful its direction. However because the keynote presentation came to a shut, avid gamers view they were about to survey the explain of the worthy-anticipated Diablo 4. However as soon as predominant designer Wyatt Cheng mentioned “mobile,” it is probably going you’ll perchance seemingly in the end feel the fun evaporate.
It used to be a mammoth misstep to identify the Diablo Immortal explain because the immense finale to BlizzCon. Gamers who had been eagerly looking ahead to an real Diablo PC sport felt tricked. It gave the impression indulge in Blizzard used to be more drawn to chasing traits in spot of giving its audience what it wanted. Things handiest received worse when Cheng later requested a booing audience “What, develop you guys no longer catch phones?” after clarifying that Immortal would no longer launch on PC. That could later develop into a mammoth meme wielded by bitter fans.
Blizzard posthaste kills Heroes of the Storm’s skilled scene
In the month following BlizzCon 2018, things were starting up to restful down unless December 14 when Blizzard announced that it used to be trimming Heroes of the Storm’s trend personnel and outright killing its esports league real sooner than its 2019 season. With no prior warning, entire teams, commentators, and make stronger personnel were all with out extend left jobless.
Though it wasn’t surprising that Heroes of the Storm used to be underperforming, fans and pros were infuriated that Blizzard would wait so gradual within the 12 months to interrupt the news. Even worse, teams and insiders weren’t even given advance ogle—they chanced on out that their Heroes of the Storm careers were over similtaneously everybody else.
Below: A tweet from venerable Tempo Storm head coach lamenting Blizzard cancelling its HotS esports league.
That is such bullshit and I’m so upset for everybody who has ever assign a minute into this scene.https://t.co/oTPo7qNUuqDecember 14, 2018
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Passe Blizzard employee says HR did nothing to cease racist bullying
In early January, venerable Blizzard employee Julian Murillo-Cuellar posted a lengthy assertion on Twitter detailing the bullying and discrimination he faced whereas working on the Hearthstone esports personnel starting up in 2016. Murillo-Cuellar alleged that one other employee frequently made racist comments and burdened him, and any attempts to unravel the mission with HR and administration were largely uncared for. Murillo-Cuellar moreover claimed that he used to be retaliated in opposition to for talking out and even received detrimental efficiency studies that described him as “no longer a personnel participant” and “sophisticated to work with.” Quickly later, Murillo-Cuellar says he started tormented by terror attacks and main depression and used to be positioned on scientific lumber away in 2017. When he used to be later positioned on unpaid lumber away in 2018, Murillo-Cuellar handed in his resignation.
Following the controversy, Blizzard issued a assertion that did no longer particularly observation on Murillo-Cuellar’s accusations but reiterated its commitment to “inclusive and respectful work atmosphere.”
Activision Blizzard lays off over 800 workers
Activision Blizzard location monetary info in 2018. Despite this, CEO Bobby Kotick announced in a February 2019 earnings name that his company could seemingly be laying off spherical 8% of its workers. This amounted to an estimated 800 folks across Activision, Blizzard, and King losing their jobs.
The dignity of significant layoffs in opposition to a backdrop of articulate monetary efficiency drew standard condemnation from all corners of the industry. In a Kotaku articulate, workers expressed outrage at Kotick’s comments and the chaotic nature of the layoffs—which were reportedly worthy more extensive than any individual used to be looking ahead to. Departments indulge in IT and esports were reportedly “gutted,” whereas core trend teams were largely untouched.
Over the next 12 months, Activision Blizzard sparked worthy more criticism when it started rehiring for many of the roles which it had on the starting up sever, culminating in a 2020 announcement that it aloof wanted to rent 2,000 workers to fulfill original demands.
Frank Pearce steps down
In July, one other Blizzard co-founder announced he used to be leaving the corporate after 28 years. Though one in every of the less seen faces of Blizzard, Pearce led trend on Warcraft 3 and used to be an executive producer on WoW’s Burning Marketing campaign, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, and Mists of Pandaria expansions.
Blizzard bans Hearthstone skilled over “liberate Hong Kong” message
Blizzard created world outrage when it suspended Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for calling for Hong Kong’s liberation from the Chinese language authorities one day of a post-match interview on the Asia Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament. On the time, Hong Kong used to be enveloped in chaos as hundreds of thousands of protestors fought in opposition to an extradition invoice that could seemingly allow for the switch of criminals to mainland China. Blitzchung used to be on the starting up suspended for a 12 months and stripped of his prize winnings. The two Taiwanese casters who were explain one day of the interview were moreover fired.
Though Blitzchung did damage one in every of the principles of the tournament, Blizzard’s resolution to suspend him drew standard condemnation and turned a national news tale. Workers staged a wander-out in command of the resolution whereas outraged avid gamers organized boycotts across all of Blizzard’s games. Main Hearthstone casters resigned, sponsors indulge in Mitsubishi pulled their make stronger from future events, and American politicians penned a bi-partisan letter condemning Blizzard’s actions. Subsequent Hearthstone tournaments stopped conducting participant interviews or using webcams to trace avid gamers after teams held up signs supporting Hong Kong and Blitzchung, whereas human rights advocacy teams called on Blizzard to overturn the suspension.
Many wondered if Blizzard’s resolution used to be motivated by a desire to dwell within the appropriate graces of the Chinese language authorities. Over the years, China had develop into a mammoth section of Blizzard’s industry, but authorities rules are notoriously fickle, and a range of accused Blizzard of silencing free speech in command to offer protection to its industry interests.
Free speech protests remove over BlizzCon 2019
Tensions and outrage over Blitzchung’s ban grew in severity for weeks sooner than spilling over into BlizzCon 2019. Long sooner than the doors opened to the Anaheim Convention Center, hundreds had gathered outdoor in command.
Correct sooner than the keynote presentation started, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack took the stage to command regret for how Blizzard reacted. Brack on the starting up didn’t specify whether Blizzard would undo its suspension, but in a PC Gamer interview later that day on the match Brack confirmed that Blizzard could seemingly be lowering Blitzchung’s ban to real six months. The two Taiwanese casters would aloof be fired, nonetheless. Brack denied claims that Blizzard’s resolution used to be influenced by its Chinese language publishing accomplice NetEase.
Warcraft 3: Reforged is a catastrophe
First announced one day of BlizzCon 2018, Warcraft 3: Reforged used to be an ambitious remaster that could seemingly update the distinctive 2002 actual-time approach sport with HD graphics, re-recorded cutscenes, apart from an upgraded user interface and world editor. However when it lastly launched in January of 2020, Reforged had didn’t deliver on many of its promises.
Maps seemed critically worse than the 2018 explain, the re-recorded articulate overs were scraped completely, and—most upsetting of all—aspects that had been explain in Warcraft 3 for a long time, indulge in clans and offline play, were missing. The original EULA moreover gave Blizzard chubby ownership of any mods that were made in Reforged, which critically upset Warcraft 3’s modding community. And because Warcraft 3: Reforged successfully replaced Warcraft 3 completely, there used to be no methodology to head aid and play the distinctive with out procuring a bodily reproduction.
Gamers were incensed. The outrage grew so noteworthy that Brack lastly addressed it about a weeks later and apologized for how thoroughly Blizzard overlooked the attach and promised that it could seemingly withhold working to toughen the game. A Bloomberg articulate released in 2021 claims that worthy of Warcraft 3: Reforged’s failings were as a result of mismanagement and Activision aggressively cutting its funds gradual in trend, forcing the personnel to desert aspects completely.
Hearthstone skilled claims he’s been blacklisted by Blizzard after his wife used to be laid off
In June of 2020, a typical Hearthstone participant named Savjz claimed he had been blacklisted from competing in official tournaments because his wife, Christina Mikkonen, used to be one in every of the 800 workers laid off in 2019 and had publicly criticized Blizzard more than one instances on social media. According to Mikkonen, Savjz used to be blacklisted after she criticized a community supervisor on Twitter for marketing a job opening aid in July.
Blizzard responded to the accusations by clarifying that Savjz used to be no longer blacklisted but hadn’t been invited because he didn’t comply with a “quiz for confidentiality” about info concerning the tournament. Savjz claimed Blizzard didn’t desire him sharing info with Mikkonen, which he refused. Blizzard at final apologized to Savjz and the 2 reached an agreement where he could remove half in future events.
Alex Afrasiabi quietly leaves Blizzard
As one in every of the ultimate faces on World of Warcraft’s trend personnel, Alex Afrasiabi’s surprising departure from Blizzard in June used to be on the starting up a thriller. He had served as inventive director for rather about a years and had reportedly led trend on Titan, Blizzard’s cancelled MMO. Blizzard made no assertion about his departure, with avid gamers handiest noticing it after Afrasiabi up so a long way his LinkedIn page to substantiate he used to be no longer with the corporate.
Afrasiabi is one in every of the few folks at once named within the sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit in opposition to Activision Blizzard, which alleges he frequently groped and burdened women workers. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson confirmed to Kotaku in July 2021 that Afrasiabi had been terminated “for his misconduct in his treatment of assorted workers.”
In August of final 12 months, Bloomberg reported that Blizzard workers were anonymously sharing their salaries after discovering large wage disparities. According to sources that spoke to Bloomberg, an internal company look printed that many workers were unsatisfied with their pay—especially in distinction to how worthy Activision Blizzard executives indulge in Kotick bear. To recommend for higher pay, workers created a spreadsheet and started documenting their wage and recent pay will enhance.
Activision Blizzard hires controversial Trump and Bush-era authorities officers
Activision Blizzard raised eyebrows earlier this 12 months when it hired Frances Townsend, who had served as a fatherland security consultant to president George W. Bush where she turned one in every of the ultimate political faces in The United States’s Struggle on Panic. Townsend moreover served as a national security analyst for diverse news organizations, and has moreover been criticized for defending acts of torture indulge in waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Townsend would aid as Activision Blizzard’s chief compliance officer, working to make certain its games didn’t rush afoul of authorities regulators in international international locations.
A few weeks later, Activision Blizzard moreover appointed Brian Bulatao, a venerable Trump administrator, as chief administration officer. As Kotaku reported, Bulatao turned the subject of public scrutiny after a probe into Trump’s firing of an just watchdog within the Insist Department. In testimony one day of a probe into his firing, that watchdog claimed he used to be fired with out trigger and Bulatao “tried to bully” him on more than one instances when investigating the Trump administration.
Jeff Kaplan quits Blizzard
In April, Overwatch lead designer and Blizzard vp Jeff Kaplan announced he used to be leaving the corporate after 19 years. The announcement used to be surprising, as Kaplan had develop into the face of Overwatch and used to be working on its sequel.
Activision Blizzard is sued for discrimination and sexual harassment
In July, The California Department of Fine Employment and Housing printed it had filed a lawsuit in opposition to Activision Blizzard claiming that workers had faced “constant sexual harassment, at the side of groping, comments, and advances” as a result of a “frat boy place of work tradition.” The lawsuit used to be the outcomes of a two-12 months investigation, in which the division claims to catch uncovered many cases where workers—particularly women and minorities—were discriminated in opposition to, sexually burdened, and denied opportunities that were as a replace handed to less licensed candidates.
The lawsuit involves nameless testimonies, at the side of one instance where an employee allegedly committed suicide on a piece time out after being area by sexual harassment from a supervisor. Blizzard president J. Allen Brack and venerable inventive director Alex Afrasiabi were two managers named at once within the suit. It alleges that Afrasiabi sexually burdened several women whereas Brack allowed toxic behavior to fester within the corporate and did diminutive to cease it.
Activision Blizzard management vehemently denied the lawsuit and called its claims “meritless,” which outraged many unusual and venerable workers who felt that they were being silenced. In the week following news of the lawsuit, dozens of venerable and unusual workers started talking up and sharing their maintain experiences of harassment and toxicity on the corporate. Over 2,500 workers signed an open letter condemning Activision Blizzard management and nerve-racking accountability, and workers moreover staged a walkout in command.
Steven enjoys nothing more than a long grind, which is precisely why his specialty is on investigative characteristic reporting on China’s PC games scene, unfamiliar reports that upset his folks, and MMOs. He’s Canadian but can no longer ice skate. Embarrassing.