Blizzard’s esports unit has taken a beating in the wake of Activision-Blizzard’s massive round of layoffs earlier this year, and the resulting hit to morale among those left is leading to some high profile departures from the company. Kim Phan, currently the global product director for Blizzard Esports, is said to be leaving the company after 13 years.
Dexerto spoke with several anonymous sources inside Activision-Blizzard who confirmed that Phan will be leaving Blizzard Esports in the next two weeks, along with several others, who Dexerto declined to name. But Phan’s departure follows that of former Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer, who announced recently that he was leaving Blizzard and taking an esports-related job with Epic Games.
A key problem, according to Dexerto’s sources, is the development of esports at Blizzard under Blizzard Esports president and CEO Pete Vlastelica, who has also stepped into the role of Overwatch League commissioner to replace Nanzer. Vlastelica previously worked for FOX Sports prior to joining Blizzard in 2016.
“People are really getting tired of working for Pete Vlastelica,” a source said. “The focus has become commercializing the esports titles instead of making good programs for the community.”
The focus on commercialization may in fact be an attempt at a course-correction for Blizzard, as it’s something Team Liquid sharply criticized the company for failing to do for Heroes of the Storm’s nascent esports scene when it abruptly cut that game’s development staff and esports funding.
“There’s a feeling that a lot of the senior management just don’t understand esports,” one of Dexerto’s sources told them. “They are convinced their vision, which is more in line with televised sports, is the right way to go and it has just made people miserable.”
Dexerto says it has obtained a list of more Blizzard veterans planning on leaving the company in the near future.