Earlier this month Mike Ybarra left Microsoft after 20 years with the company. Now we know what his next gig is going to be.
On November 4, he will be stepping in as executive vice president and general manager at Blizzard Entertainment, as tweeted by Ybarra himself:
I’m very happy to announce I’m joining @Blizzard_Ent as Exec. Vice President and GM starting 11/4 (will be at #blizzcon!). We will work with all our energy to serve gamers with incredible content and experiences. I can’t wait to be part of this team. #lucky #humble #gamers #serve pic.twitter.com/kZ8dRuF3pe
— Mike Ybarra (@Qwik) October 24, 2019
In his new capacity, Ybarra will attend BlizzCon, where he will have to address lots of sensitive issues that Blizzard has a way of generating in abundance.
On October 5, Blizzard removed Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai from its Grandmasters esports competition and banned him from participating any Hearthstone esports event. The decision was made following Blitzchung’s statement in support of Hong Kong’s independence from China. Both democrats and republicans called on Blizzard to revoke the ban as it undermined “American values — like freedom of speech and thought.” The fan community also protested banning Blitzchung over his pro-Hong Kong stance. Despite denial on the part of Blizzard execs, the backlashers among fans and politicians tend to attribute the company’s decision to the ties with Beijing. After all, Tencent owns around a five percent stake at Blizzard.
Then again, the Blizzard management might be sincere about not following Beijing’s instructions. At least, Epic Games, which is also part-owned by Tencent, stated it would not be banning any Fortnite players for expressing their political stance.
Anyway, BlizzCon sounds like a perfect venue for all parties concerned to once again vocalize their positions. So, good luck to Mr. Ybarra handling that.
Politics aside, fans have not been all too happy with Blizzard’s recnet take on gaming either. Last year’s BlizzCon, which the company used to unveil its Diablo Immortal mobile game, many fans called a “slap in the face.”
My god, the savagery. The absolute savagery. #diabloimmortal #Diablo #diablo @LaymenGaming pic.twitter.com/Jvt4XzswzS
— Skill Up reviewing #DeathStranding (@SkillUpYT) November 2, 2018
Painful silence at BlizzCon 2018
And it wasn’t just about the community’s frustrated expectations (No, you can’t always get what you want), the general course Blizzard seems to be taking under the aegis of Activision is mobile-oriented. It’s so obvious that Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack had to specifically reiterate that Blizzard remains a PC-first company.
These are the stakes for the newly appointed executive vice president and general manager. Twitter users are concerned whether Ybarra will be able to maintain his “for the gamers” approach under Activision. However, given Ybarra’s experience, many think “there is still hope to steer that car back into the road.” Regardless of how Blizzard play their political card, there is one thing Ybarra can do to fix things with fans. And that is to finally announce something Diablo 4.