Activision Blizzard, the video game maker, said on Tuesday that the president of its Blizzard Entertainment studio was stepping down immediately and that its head of human resources was also leaving, as the company grapples with the fallout from allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination.
Activision, known for Call of Duty and other popular gaming franchises, has been under pressure since the State of California sued it on July 20. The lawsuit accused the company of fostering a “frat boy workplace culture” in which men joked about rape and women were routinely harassed and paid less than their male colleagues.
Many of the misconduct accusations in the lawsuit focused on the Blizzard division, with which Activision merged through a 2008 deal with Vivendi Games.
The departing executive, J. Allen Brack, will be replaced by two Blizzard executives, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will be co-leaders of the studio, Activision said in a statement. Mr. Brack was mentioned in the lawsuit as an executive who had failed to take “effective remedial measures” when sexual harassment and discrimination complaints were brought to him.
Jesse Meschuk, the head of human resources, is also “no longer with the company,” the company said. News of Mr. Meschuk’s departure was reported earlier by Bloomberg.
Bobby Kotick, Activision’s chief executive, initially stumbled in his response to the lawsuit but has since moved aggressively to contain employee discontent. Activision was at first dismissive of the allegations, and more than 1,500 employees staged a walkout last week to protest the response and to urge executives to take the issues seriously.
On the eve of the walkout, Mr. Kotick apologized and said Activision would improve its culture and hire the law firm WilmerHale to review the company’s policies. “I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding,” he told employees at the time.
On Tuesday after Activision released it financial report for the quarter, Mr. Kotick said in a conference call that the company condemned harassment and discrimination. “People will be held accountable,” he said.
With Mr. Brack’s departure, Mr. Kotick also has an opportunity to cement control over Blizzard. For years after the merger with Activision, Blizzard had its own chief executive, Mike Morhaime. When Mr. Brack succeeded Mr. Morhaime as the head of Blizzard in 2018, he had the title of president but not chief executive. Now neither Ms. Oneal or Mr. Ybarra will get the title of president.
“It’s another attempt to try to get ahead of this wave of negative news,” Doug Creutz, the senior video game analyst at Cowen, said of the leadership changes. “I think it’s certainly the case that Activision corporate intends to exert more oversight over Blizzard than they have in the past.”
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Activision declined to make Mr. Kotick, Mr. Brack or other executives available for interviews.
In a statement, Activision said it had become clear to Mr. Brack and other executives that Blizzard needed “a new direction and leadership given the critical work ahead.” Mr. Brack was leaving to “pursue new opportunities,” Daniel Alegre, Activision Blizzard’s president, said in a note to employees.
Activision also said Ms. Oneal and Mr. Ybarra were committed “to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible.” Ms. Oneal started at Blizzard in January as executive vice president of development, while Mr. Ybarra joined in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology.
Employees who organized last week’s walkout said Mr. Brack’s departure was just a start.
“No one person is responsible for the culture of Blizzard,” the organizers wrote on Twitter, adding that there needed to be “systemic change.” They declined to be identified out of fear of reprisal.
In a note to employees on July 22, Mr. Brack had said he was angry and sad to read of the misconduct allegations in the lawsuit. “I disdain ‘bro culture,’” he wrote.
A decade-old video later resurfaced online of Mr. Brack — at the time a developer of the game World of Warcraft — and other developers at a gaming convention, laughing off a question from a woman about creating less sexualized female gaming characters.
The video game industry has long been criticized for its behavior toward women. In 2014, feminist critics of the industry faced death threats in what became known as Gamergate. Executives at the gaming companies Riot Games and Ubisoft have also been accused of misconduct.