In a recent interview, Blizzard studio head Mike Ybarra attempted to address criticism of the developer, foregrounding changes to company culture and defending Diablo Immortal.
In a profile from the LA Times, Ybarra stated that he believes Blizzard is addressing the employee concerns that are in his control, though he acknowledged that it is an ongoing process. When asked what actions he is taking to change Blizzard, he said, “We have taken two or three key people who identify as women, across every team, and I meet monthly with them. We talk about what will make Blizzard great for women. Our hope is that employees recognize these changes, and people start feeling more safe and more comfortable here.” He emphasized that these meetings are not only with high-level staff, but with entry- and mid-level employees. He also expressed a commitment toward equal pay and said that recent hires Jessica Martinez and Makaiya Brown are making the development process more equitable.
On the business side, Ybarra defended Diablo Immortal’s microtransactions, saying, “The philosophy was always to lead with great gameplay and make sure that hundreds of millions of people can go through the whole campaign without any costs. From that standpoint, I feel really good about it as an introduction to Diablo.” Blizzard recently outlined plans for the free-to-play mobile title, but did not address criticism of the monetization. Ybarra expressed a desire to release more games more consistently, criticizing the ten-year release gap between Diablo 3 and Diablo Immortal. He also affirmed plans for BlizzCon to return in 2023.
After expressing hope that the company has grown beyond elements of its past, Ybarra said, “I don’t think it ever ends. There’s no high-five that we met our commitments. This is something that is going to be in our DNA forever.” It’s a haunting statement to read as the Activision Blizzard King Worker Alliance announced plans today for a walkout on July 21, citing a disconnect between the promises of leadership and practical reality of employees.
The workers’ organization expressed concerns about the safety of employees in states where abortion has been outlawed and stated that the company has inadequately addressed sexual harassment. The group demanded more robust healthcare plans and access to the sexual harassment audit requested by shareholders, among other demands detailed in their statement.
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