Steven R. June 2, 2019
Activision Blizzard has been defined by its frequent turnover in recent months, and that trend isn’t stopping any time soon.
According to a report by Dexerto, a number of key players in the company’s esports department are set to leave, most notably Global Product Director of Blizzard Esports Kim Phan. This is due to nosediving morale on the team stemming from disagreements between staff and President of Activision Blizzard Esports of Pete Vlastelica over the direction of competitive Overwatch and Call of Duty.
“People are really getting tired of working for Pete Vlastelica,” one source said. “The focus has become commercializing the esports titles instead of making good programs for the community. Many people internally are laying that on Pete, and it has crushed morale among the Call of Duty and Overwatch teams especially.”
Activision Blizzard has been a steady source of news over the last year, and almost exclusively for bad reasons.
Last year the publisher began slowly pruning its workforce as rumors swirled of Activision taking a more hands-on approach with Blizzard after years of letting the company largely handle its own workings in game development. Word of layoffs in the company appeared several times in 2018, but things came to a head in February as Blizzard laid off over 800 employees despite announcing record-breaking annual revenues.
During this stretch, Blizzard repeatedly irked its customers. The announcement of new mobile game Diablo Immortal was torn apart by fans of the series, and the abrupt closure of Heroes of the Storm esports left pro players and competing organizations out in the cold with no warning. To top it all off, Bungie split off from Activision and took the Destiny franchise with it, sending stock prices plunging by over 50 percent.
The remaining staff at Activision Blizzard are apparently not immune to this negativity, and some are set to leave the company over these and other frustrations.
That said, people at the top of the company may still be pleased with Vlastelica’s work. Though the traditional sports approach to competitive Overwatch has drawn the ire of some, it has also drawn hundreds of millions of dollars to Activision Blizzard. Franchises in the Overwatch League have sold for as much as $50 million according to reports, and that number may have grown for Call of Duty.
The bigger question for Activision Blizzard is whether these buy-ins will contribute to sustainable growth.
Outside of Phan, there is no word on who else may be leaving the company or how many are leaving in total.