Blizzard Hires Heavyweight Executive Amid Controversy And Recent Departures

Blizzard Hires Heavyweight Executive Amid Controversy And Recent Departures
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment Via Youtube

With one move, Blizzard just added a gaming industry heavyweight to its executive team.

On October 9, Mike Ybarra announced that he was leaving Xbox. He’s been part of Microsoft’s Xbox team for twenty years, starting with the original console. Ybarra held the role of Corporate Vice President of Gaming and oversaw Xbox Live, Mixer, and Xbox Game Pass.

Ybarra announced his career move on Twitter:

The tweet announces that he starts with Blizzard on November 4, filling the role Executive Vice President and General Manager. He has also confirmed his attendance for the wildly popular annual event Blizzcon.

It’s an interesting time for Blizzard to pick up such a big name in the industry. Over the past twelve months, the company has been attached to multiple controversies.

Diablo, one of Blizzard’s most prized games, has some hardcore players attached to it. Last November, during Blizzcon, Blizzard announced a new game for the Diablo series named Diablo Immortal. However, it is essential to note that it is a mobile game, not a PC game, and it is not named Diablo 4.

Fans were outraged, claiming Blizzard was wasting their time on a mobile game instead of servicing the veteran fans that were clamoring for Diablo 4. The company’s stance on the fan dismay is that they understand the passion of their devoted players and have other teams working on Diablo 4 and that they are not focusing squarely on the mobile game.

However, their most significant controversy happened earlier this month when they punished Hearthstone pro Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung for making a pro-Hong Kong statement. During a postgame interview, he exclaimed, “liberate Hong-Kong – revolution of our time.”

Blizzard banned Blitzchung for a year from Hearthstone eSport events and took away his prize winnings. The company even went as far as firing the two broadcasters that interviewed Blitzchung.

The punishments have been an enormous controversy as onlookers and fans accuse Blizzard as being pro-China and anti-Hong Kong. This move by Blizzard has sparked multiple public protests as well as receiving a letter from US legislators to reverse the decision of the ban.
Since then, Blizzard has reduced the punishment for Blitzchung.

Blizzard has also lost long-time executives over the past year. The most notable regime change being co-founder Mike Morhaime stepping down as president in January. He now fills a modest role as a strategic advisor. The company also lost the likes of Activision Blizzard CFO Spencer Neumann and Blizzard CFO Amrita Ahuja.

Bringing someone on the caliber of Mike Ybarra is an excellent sign that Blizzard is trying to get back on track. With his expertise running billion-dollar facets of a gaming business, Blizzard scored big on this one. Hopefully, he will be able to defuse controversies and departures circling the company and get Blizzard to focus on what they do best, making games.