Just weeks after saying his farewell to Microsoft, former Xbox corporate vice president Mike Ybarra has announced that he is joining Blizzard Entertainment. On November 4, Ybarra will start as Blizzard's new executive vice president and general manager.
"We will work with all our energy to serve gamers with incredible content and experiences," Ybarra writes. "I can't wait to be part of this team."
Ybarra worked at Microsoft for 20 years. Starting as general manager for Xbox Live in 2009, Ybarra spent the last decade in the Xbox division. In his last role at Microsoft as an Xbox corporate vice president, Ybarra focused on the division's services arm, overseeing Xbox Live, Xbox Game Pass, and Mixer. In the last year, Ybarra was particularly bullish on the subject of cross-play.
Blizzard is adding Ybarra to its ranks towards the end of a year marked by prominent departures, layoffs, and an ongoing international controversy. Two of Blizzard's three co-founders, Mike Morhaime and Frank Pierce, left the company within six months of each other. In February, Activision Blizzard laid off 800 employees across Blizzard and other subsidiary studios.
Earlier this month, Blizzard suspended professional Hearthstone player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai for making a statement in support of the protests in Hong Kong on an official tournament stream. Blizzard fans and employees quickly pushed back against the ruling and, though Blizzard later reduced the suspension and stated that its business relationships in mainland China did not influence the original decision, the controversy has not died out. There are upcoming protest actions planned to coincide with BlizzCon 2019, and several United States lawmakers penned a letter expressing deep concerns on the matter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.