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Photo: Courtesy of Blizzard

Activision Blizzard's internal upheavals continue with game delays and major departures, as Blizzard co-head Jen Oneal announced yesterday that she would step away from the role after only three months.

Driving the news: The company, on the precipice of launching a new "Call of Duty" from its Activision wing this Friday, announced the news during its investor call yesterday. That leaves Mike Ybarra as Blizzard's sole leader as the company faces harassment, misconduct and discrimination lawsuits and investigations.

  • In a message to staff, Oneal said that she is not leaving "because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite — I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working toward meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts."
  • "This energy has inspired me to step out and explore how I can do more to have games and diversity intersect, and hopefully make a broader industry impact that will benefit Blizzard (and other studios) as well."
  • Oneal will first "transition to a new position" before leaving the company entirely at the end of the year; ABK will invest "in the future of other women in the gaming industry" through a $1 million grant to Women in Games International.

Employees were informed of the news about 22 minutes ahead of time, with many finding out about Oneal's impending departure during the company shareholder meeting.

  • "This is a sad moment for many of us at ABK, who were excited to have a new experience with a Woman of Color heading our company," tweeted ABK Workers Alliance, an unofficial employee group pushing for change at the company.
  • Oneal "felt like one of us, someone who knew what it meant to be in this industry," said a current employee who spoke to Axios anonymously because they are not authorized to discuss company matters publicly. "She was always a voice of empathy and understanding — now that's gone."

Flashback: Oneal and Ybarra took over as studio c0-leads in August, after the departure of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack in the time following the ongoing lawsuit against Activision Blizzard.

  • One employee previously described Oneal's appointment as exciting to Axios, both for her company track record and in terms of more diverse representation at the top of the company.

Elsewhere: The company also announced that "Overwatch 2" and "Diablo IV" have been delayed to "a later launch."

  • "While we are still planning to deliver a substantial amount of content from Blizzard next year, we are now planning for a later launch for 'Overwatch 2' and 'Diablo IV' than originally envisaged."
  • "Diablo IV"'s director Luis Barriga was let go this year in the wake of the company's ongoing harassment scandal; "Overwatch" director Jeff Kaplan left the company in April.
  • OWL's 2022 season will be played on an early build of "Overwatch 2," the company confirmed to Axios.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that employees were given advance notice of Oneal's departure.

Go deeper

6 state treasurers pressure Activision over misconduct allegations

Image: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The pressure on Activision Blizzard to make meaningful change over harassment allegations, unequal pay and other workplace issues is intensifying, as treasurers from California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Delaware and Nevada are calling on the company to take action.

Why it matters: The game-maker, which is already facing lawsuits and investigations, is now hearing from state treasurers who aren’t afraid to utilize billions of dollars of investments, often through pension funds, as a way to trigger corporate change.

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Philanthropy in the age of crypto

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The best charities are increasingly effective. That's the clear message sent by Open Philanthropy, the think tank that doubles as the grant-making vehicle for Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna.

Why it matters: With tech and crypto wealth becoming a fast-growing part of the philanthropic pie, there's more of an emphasis than ever on effectiveness — what the newly-divorced Melinda French Gates, in her recent Giving Pledge update, characterizes as giving as "impactfully as possible."

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