Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga, lead designer Jesse McCree, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft were let go from Blizzard on Wednesday, two sources with knowledge of the move told Kotaku.
The news was delivered to development teams today but has not yet been officially announced. A source confirmed to Kotaku that the three developers’ names are no longer visible in Blizzard’s internal directory or Slack. Activision Blizzard did not immediately return a request for comment.
[Update – 6:20 p.m. ET, 8/11/21]: a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard confirmed the departures in an email. “We can confirm Luis Barriga, Jesse McCree, and Jonathan LeCraft are no longer with the company,” they wrote.
“We have a deep, talented roster of developers already in place and new leaders have been assigned where appropriate. We are confident in our ability to continue progress, deliver amazing experiences to our players, and move forward to ensure a safe, productive work environment for all.”
One source who learned of the news said Activision Blizzard did not give a reason for the departures, but they come as the company reckons with a California lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at the Overwatch and Call of Duty publisher.
Jesse McCree, the namesake for Overwatch’s beloved cowboy fighter and most recently a designer on Diablo 4, was one of several current and former Blizzard developers who appeared in an image of a BlizzCon 2013 “Cosby Suite” obtained by Kotaku. The suite contained booze and a giant portrait of Bill Cosby and reportedly belonged to World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi.
Afrasiabi is one of the few people called out by name in California’s lawsuit, which accuses him of sexually harassing and groping female coworkers. Bloomberg reported that the nickname for the suite began as a joke about ugly carpeting and predated the sexual assault allegations about Bill Cosby becoming widely publicized, though some Blizzard sources have disputed that origin story. Two former Blizzard employees told Kotaku that the suite’s reputation had always been menacing because of Afrasiabi’s behavior. Afrasiabi-related references have since been removed from World of Warcraft, though there’s no word yet on whether or not Overwatch and its gunslinger will see any changes in light of the latest news.
Jonathan LeCraft and Cory Stockton, currently a lead game designer at Blizzard, were also pictured in the suite. Two sources confirmed to Kotaku that Stockton was put on leave last week but appears to remain with the company.
Luis Barriga has been at Blizzard since 2006, and as game director has been one of the faces of Diablo 4 since it was initially revealed. The game is still deep in development and doesn’t yet have a release date. Last year, veteran game developer Rod Fergusson announced he was leaving Microsoft and Gears 5 studio The Coalition to join Blizzard and oversee the entire Diablo franchise.
Additional reporting by Patricia Hernandez