Three senior designers pivotal to Diablo 4 and World of Warcraft are no longer at Activision Blizzard. Kotaku confirmed the trio of abrupt departures after initially learning about them from internal sources. They include Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga, lead designer Jesse McCree, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft. Insiders told the publication that the three developers names had been removed from Blizzard’s internal directory and Slack.
News of the shakeup arrives as Activision Blizzard is grappling with allegations of systemic gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The incendiary accusations, which were revealed in a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), have already led to damaging repercussions for the publisher. Blizzard is facing an internal outcry, with workers staging walkouts and demanding corrective action. Earlier this month, the company lost its president and was hit with a lawsuit by investors irked by its handling of the crisis. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has admitted that the publisher's original response to the DFEH filing was "tone-deaf."
While the company did not give a specific reason for the latest departures, two of the designers (namely McCree and LeCraft) were reportedly pictured in photos of the infamous "Cosby Suite." This was the hotel room explicitly mentioned in the DFEH lawsuit where male employees allegedly harassed women at company events. As Overwatch fans may know, the game features a cowboy called Jesse McCree named after the now ex-Blizzard employee. It remains to be seen if the publisher changes the character's name.
“We have a deep, talented roster of developers already in place and new leaders have been assigned where appropriate," a spokesperson for Blizzard told Kotaku. "We are confident in our ability to continue progress, deliver amazing experiences to our players, and move forward to ensure a safe, productive work environment for all.”