World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Hearthstone, classics such as Lost Vikings - Blizzard stands for quality and creativity, and from an entrepreneurial point of view, the game studio seems to do everything right at least to the extent that developers from all over the world see a position at Blizzard Entertainment as a dream job. In the meantime, one must probably say: have understood, because only fragments are left of the flawless image of the former model game manufacturer. Blizzard has managed to crush its reputation in just a few years. 

- a comment by André Volkmann

Blizzard once created big brands and made entire genres suitable for the masses - and has done so for decades. At the Blizzconline 2021, the corona-related alternative Blizzcon show as a purely digital format, its classics were celebrated and presented as a model company. In addition to the presentation of nostalgic-playful pearls such as Lost Vikings, Rock & Roll Racing, Blackthorne and Co, this also included the sermon of cosmopolitanism and equality. Presented by J. Allen Brack in a t-shirt with the rainbow-colored Blizzard logo - now former President of Blizzard, because Brack is gone. Likewise, Blizzard's HR boss Jesse Meschuk. He will probably not have been the last to leave the company.

You do not know what to expect

The reasons for the big tidying up in the management floor? Complaints about sexual harassment, among other things. A California ministry filed a lawsuit against Blizzard on July 20. And thousands of employees at the game forge jumped on this bandwagon, perhaps taking the opportunity to make problems public. As a result, they signed an open letter to the management team and stood up for the victims.

Activision boss Bobby Kotick reacted quickly, you have to give him that: J. Allen Brack had to leave, but Mike Ybarra and Jen O'Neal are now forming the new dual leadership. This is the first time a woman has been in the presidential management of the game studio. This is a historic step. Consequent. Right. Desirable. It would have been even nicer if you hadn't been forced to do it indirectly. That is how the vocation has a “taste”. It is a clear message, but also a symbol of failures in the past. O'Neal now acts as a kind of memorial. Perhaps also because she is not one of those employees who has worked for Blizzard for decades: Jen O'Neal has only been there since January and was previously the studio manager of Vicarious Visions. There is no doubt that the woman has something on the box, but her presidency now seems like a forced rush job to limit further image damage. This will work, but at the same time cannot be reversed. The damage has already been done.

Blizzard has shattered its pristine reputation with a vengeance in just a few years. So much so that you could almost accuse those responsible for intent. The purely playful failures would not have been dramatic in the long term: Diablo 3 was successful, but somehow different from what the fans had hoped for. The Warcraft 3 refresher did not go down well. Because of World of Warcraft fans already for decades - and play it anyway. Swam over it. Diablo 4 is in the pipeline, as is Overwatch 2. And even the mobile offshoot Diablo Immortal seems to be way better than expected. Blizzard was in for a rosy day.

Global staff

And then, of all places, in an industry in which employees from all over the world are hired and where creativity and commitment are the focus, you pound your game with those basic problems of the games community that you could have recognized for years Image around? Incomprehensible. Women were groped, harassed, physically touched undesirably, they earned less money in the same role, were humiliated, hired or rejected because of their appearance, treated derogatory, even humiliated - the list of alleged misconduct is long. Even examples are given. They culminate in an employee suicide story that the California Department associates with harassment in its filing. As if that weren't bad enough, managers should not have dealt with the matter or only dealt with it superficially. Several magazines have reported extensively on the alleged events - whether all of them are true or only a part. Or whether courts even decide in favor of Blizzard in the end. It doesn't matter: the damage has long been done because the very possibility of such mismanagement makes one sit up and take notice.

In the end, not much will be left of the former role model. The allegations have made Blizzard from an over-company to another game studio, in which those working conditions could prevail that are more and more ostracized. It would all be so simple: Don't think about genders. Pay equal, fair salaries. Treat yourselves with respect.

Blizzard had taken a stand against various magazines, including stating that the DFEH ("California Department of Fair Employment and Housing") was required by law to investigate*. They wanted to solve the problems before a legal dispute arose. In court, one would show that the complaint filed was inaccurate. The submission was also "distorted" and contained "in many cases incorrect descriptions". That's the real scandal, because apparently there can't be a maximum denial.

Major sponsors have long since responded. T-Mobile's North American subsidiary has hastily withdrawn from the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League. At least it stands to reason that this happened because of the internal problems at Blizzard-Activision. Coca Cola is also at least checking sponsorship. In the case of the players themselves, the basic problem that could cause Blizzard to stumble becomes apparent again: It's all about games, it is said by those who ignore and suppress. The fact that misogynist slogans are used in the discussion should hardly come as a surprise, given the fact that the topic has been increasingly present in the scene for years.

One thing is clear: the days when game developers enjoyed the freedom of being fools when it comes to dealing with their employees are long gone. Now an icy wind is blowing in the industry.

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