Activision Blizzard just had another rough day. A few short months after a July 2021 lawsuit exposed a slew of cultural issues at the company, its stock plummeted by 15 percent the day after it confirmed delays for some of Blizzard Entertainment’s biggest upcoming games. Meanwhile, a mass exodus of creatives and executives leaving Activision Blizzard continues, making it abundantly clear that pervasive issues need to be addressed as soon as possible.
What happened — On November 2, Activision Blizzard held its Q3 2021 earnings call. The most prominent announcement in the call was the delay of Blizzard’s Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV. Activision Blizzard COO Daniel Alegre gave the following reasoning for the delay:
“These are two of the most eagerly anticipated titles in the industry, and our teams have made great strides towards completion in recent quarters. But we believe giving the team some extra time to complete production and continue growing their creative resources to support the titles after launch will ensure that these releases delight and engage their communities for many years into the future.”
Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV were announced in 2019 and have yet to be released.
While Blizzard hasn’t shared official release windows for the games, don’t expect Overwatch 2 or Diablo 4 to launch until 2023.
Blizzard Entertainment Co-Leader Jen Oneal also announced that she is stepping down from her position and will leave the company by the end of the year. “I am doing this not because I am without hope for Blizzard, quite the opposite,” she wrote in a blog post. This comes just a few months after she took the role. When she leaves, Blizzard will once again be led by a male executive.
She’s just the latest in a long string of employees and executives leaving Blizzard. In some cases, they’ve chosen to leave. In others, they were fired for misconduct. Development teams are still recovering and rebuilding from the upheaval while at the same time exploring the possibility of unionizing. Doing so would ensure that Activision Blizzard's leadership follows through on promises of improving company culture.
Blizzard Leader Mike Ybarra even partially admits this is the case later in the earnings call. “There’s obviously been a change in leadership,” he said. “We looked at what was left in the final phases of production with fresh eyes, and we saw that allowing the teams more time would enable both great experiences at launch.”
The Inverse Analysis — For Activision Blizzard to improve, game delays are necessary so leadership can refocus on improving company culture. While Activision Blizzard is taking steps towards that, Blizzard is far from fixed. It will likely take several months before teams are in a comfortable position to focus on game development and not on the company's workplace issues that have been part of the public discourse for several months.
It may be frustrating to wait even longer for games like Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV, but it’s a necessary sacrifice. Solving workplace issues should take precedence over rushing through the development of new games, even if they are some of the biggest games expected in the next decade.
We’ve already waited several years for Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV. What’s another two years?