In a significant shift within the gaming industry, Johanna Faries, known for her leadership role in the Call of Duty franchise, has been appointed the new head of Blizzard Entertainment. This move marks a pivotal moment for Blizzard, a studio looking to revitalize its image and direction.
Johanna Faries’ transition from Activision to Blizzard is not just a change of position but also a shift in focus and challenges. Her journey with Activision began in the esports division of Call of Duty, where she later ascended to lead the entire franchise. Now, as the first Blizzard boss appointed after Microsoft’s monumental $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Faries steps into a role that is fraught with expectations and opportunities.
This appointment, first reported by Bloomberg, comes at a tumultuous time for the company. Microsoft recently made significant layoffs within its video game division, impacting numerous employees at Activision Blizzard. This restructuring led to the cancellation of a long-in-development Blizzard survival game, codenamed Odyssey, and saw the exit of key figures like Blizzard’s president Mike Ybarra and chief design officer Allen Adham.
Navigating Blizzard’s Unique Landscape
Faries takes the reins amidst a period of introspection and change for Blizzard. Historically, Activision and Blizzard have operated as distinct entities under a single banner, but over time, Blizzard’s autonomy has diminished, leading to a drain of talent and a perceived decline in game quality. Faries’ appointment is a bold move by Microsoft, indicating a willingness to bridge the gap between the two entities more directly than before.
In her note to staff, Faries acknowledges the distinct cultures and communities that define each label under Activision Blizzard King. She emphasizes the uniqueness of Blizzard’s games and communities, highlighting the differences in approach between the Call of Duty franchise and Blizzard’s portfolio. Faries writes, “I’ve discussed this with the Blizzard leadership team and I’m walking into this role with sensitivity to those dynamics, and deep respect for Blizzard, as we begin to explore taking our universes to even higher heights.”
The Road Ahead for Call of Duty
With Faries’ departure from Call of Duty, the franchise will now be under the stewardship of Matt Cox, the former vice president of product management. This transition marks a new chapter for both Blizzard and Call of Duty, as each embarks on their respective journeys under new leadership.