Activision loses Blizzard co-leader, delays launch of ‘Overwatch’, ‘Diablo’

FILE PHOTO: The Activision booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: The Activision booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

November 2, 2021

(Reuters) – Activision Blizzard Inc co-leader Jen Oneal on Tuesday decided to step down from her role, giving full control to Mike Ybarra and the videogame publisher put off the launch of two much-awaited titles, sending its shares down 10%.

Ybarra said the delay in the rollout of “Overwatch 2” and “Diablo IV” was due to the leadership change, but did not give a new timeline for their launch, while the company forecast an underwhelming adjusted sales in the holiday quarter.

Oneal and Ybarra took the helm three months ago after Allen Brack stepped down as president, a week after the company was sued for workplace harassment and pay discrimination.

Following this, the company last month fired more than 20 employees, with 20 more facing other forms of disciplinary action.

The owner of “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush” franchises also created an $18 million fund to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants, while Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said he would take a large paycut.

In a letter to the company’s gaming community, Oneal said she will leave at the end of the year to focus more on diversity in the gaming industry, which will “hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard” and other studios.

With her exit, the company now has three female executives in the 13-member leadership team.

Meanwhile, as pandemic-related curbs eased, Activision’s total monthly active users in the third quarter remained unchanged at 390 million from a year earlier, indicating signs of slowing demand for games.

The company, which faces competition from rivals Electronic Arts Inc and Take-Two, said in-game net bookings were same as the third quarter of 2020.

Its adjusted sales for the third quarter was $1.88 billion, in line with Wall Street expectations.

The company said it expects fourth-quarter adjusted sales to be $2.78 billion. Analysts were expecting it to be $2.93 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

(Reporting by Tiyashi Datta and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)