What you need to know
Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Ybarra recently departed the company as part of a wave of layoffs at Activision Blizzard under Microsoft.
Former Call of Duty general manager Johanna Faries is being appointed as the new president of Blizzard Entertainment.
In a message to Blizzard employees, Faries wrote that she is "committed to doing everything I can to help Blizzard thrive."
Blizzard Entertainment has a new leader starting in February.
Following the departure of Mike Ybarra amid large layoffs at Activision Blizzard, former Call of Duty general manager Johanna Faries is the new president of Blizzard Entertainment. The news was first broken by Bloomberg before being directly confirmed by Blizzard in a blog post.
In a message to Blizzard Entertainment employees, Faries wrote that "Activision, Blizzard, and King are decidedly different companies with distinct games, cultures, and communities. It is important to note that Call of Duty’s way of waking up in the morning to deliver for players can often differ from the stunning games in Blizzard’s realm," adding that "I am committed to doing everything I can to help Blizzard thrive, with care and consideration for you and for our games, each unique and special in their own right."
Evolving leadership at Microsoft Gaming
Faries' appointment is the latest in a cascade of changing leadership roles for the entire Xbox division under Microsoft Gaming. Several Activision Blizzard executives have departed the company, while Matt Booty — formerly the head of Xbox Game Studios — is now overseeing Xbox Game Studios, ZeniMax Media, and Activision Blizzard, while each publishing sub-division retains its own leadership.
This structure is meant to allow each publisher to have its own culture and semi-autonomy, while still providing more oversight for the games being developed and projects that are greenlit as part of Xbox.
Analysis: A seemingly solid decision, but Blizzard's path is unclear
From the outside, Faries seems like a great choice. Blizzard Entertainment struggled for years with a reported "frat boy" culture that eventually exploded with a lawsuit in 2021. Having a woman with experience running a large franchise such as Call of Duty could be a great shake-up and help the teams find new direction.
But all of that comes right on the back of massive layoffs. Of 1,900 people laid off at Microsoft Gaming, the overwhelming majority were under Activision Blizzard, including basically the entirety of the team working on the now-cancelled survival game. Hopefully things even out from here on.