A high-profile departure from Blizzard Entertainment shows how its crisis in leadership and managing an alleged culture of toxicity and sexual harassment is driving talent from the company.
Today senior test analyst Jessica Gonzalez announced her departure from the company, stating that she'd received a better offer outside of the games industry and that she needed to "put her own wellbeing first."
Gonzalez's departure feels like a notable mile marker of how Activision Blizzard's strategy for handling this ongoing crisis has continued to both drive out diverse industry talent and make it difficult to acquire good new hires. Several Blizzard employees told Axios that Gonzalez's activism was a spark that lit the fire of this month's walkout.
Over the last few months, Game Developer has heard multiple anecdotes of employees leaving the company, many due to the revelations that began to emerge after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed its lawsuit back in July. Recruiters for the company have apparently gone so far as to message employees speaking out on social media, criticizing them for making it "difficult" to attract new talent.
Some employees have also been publicly joking about Blizzard's turnover on social media.
What feels uncomfortable is the fact that these departures feel good for Activision Blizzard's strategy of riding out the lawsuit from the DFEH, and letting any accountability for senior management fade into the background. If dissatisfied employees leave the company, and new hires who are comfortable with the status quo replace them, that means less pressure like the petition that gathered 1,700 signatures calling for CEO Bobby Kotick's removal.
On the other hand, if said employees stick around, they risk pushback from upper management and in some cases, their own colleagues. Gonzalez has shared other incidents on Twitter of Activision Blizzard employees sending her public criticism on the company's Slack channel. It's not an environment many would want to stick around in.
Blizzard's relatively low pay compared to other game and tech studios (which has been a lesser part of this year's story) also might contribute to employees leaving the company.
It remains disappointing, but unsurprising, that Activision Blizzard leadership would continue to prioritize the employment of senior management over the well-being and retaining of employees who make its multimillion dollar games possible--a sentiment Gonzalez shared in her exit message to the company.
"To [Bobby Kotick]: Your inaction and refusal to take accountability is driving out great talent and the products will suffer until you are removed from your position as CEO. This may seem harsh, but you had years to fix the culture and look at where the company currently stands."