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This comes two weeks after Ybarra left his long-time position on Microsoft’s Xbox team. Ybarra made the announcement in a statement on Twitter. In that tweet, the Blizzard boss said that he is “lucky” and “humble.”
“I’m very happy to announce I’m joining [Blizzard] as executive Vice President and GM starting November 4,” writes Ybarra. “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.”
While Ybarra doesn’t start until after BlizzCon, he confirmed that he is planning to attend the company’s massive fan gathering in Anaheim. BlizzCon begins November 1 and runs through November 2.
Mike Ybarra brings service expertise to Blizzard
At Microsoft, Ybarra oversaw a number of important Xbox services. In his role as corporate vice president, he was responsible for Xbox Live, Xbox Game Pass, and Mixer.
Now, Ybarra is bringing that experience to Blizzard, where he can help do the same for that publisher. With games like World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Overwatch, Blizzard is already a major live-services company. But Ybarra can potentially build on that.
Of course, Ybarra’s arrival comes as Blizzard is facing one of its most public controversies ever. Earlier in October, Blizzard punished Hearthstone pro Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung for saying “liberate Hong Kong — revolution of our time” during an official post-game interview. The publisher banned Blitzchung for a year and rescinded his prize winnings. Blizzard even banned the two broadcasters who interviewed Blitzchung. The company later restored Blitzchung’s money and reduced the ban from Hearthstone esports events to six months.
Many fans took the company’s swift action as an effort to bow to pressure from China, which is extremely sensitive about Hong Kong sovereignty and the months-long protests in that territory. And many people are letting Blizzard know how upset they are that an American company would help a foreign government silence the free expression of an individual. Blizzard’s actions even drew the attention of a bipartisan congressional group that wrote a letter to Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick.
So Ybarra is jumping right into the fire. And the ongoing fallout might affect how the new executive can do his job.
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