Activision's Call of Duty general manager takes over as president of Blizzard

 Johanna Faries press photo.
Johanna Faries press photo.

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that its new president is Johanna Faries, who previously spent nearly three years as the general manager of Activision's Call of Duty franchise. Faries will replace Mike Ybarra, who unexpectedly announced his departure when Microsoft laid off 1,900 employees from its gaming division last week.

In an email sent to Blizzard employees, Faries said "Activision, Blizzard, and King are decidedly different companies with distinct games, cultures, and communities," and that she's taking on the new position "with sensitivity to those dynamics, and deep respect for Blizzard."

"I am committed to doing everything I can to help Blizzard thrive, with care and consideration for you and for our games, each unique and special in their own right," Faries wrote. "I’m optimistic about our ability to serve our current and future player communities, and to further amplify the shared passion for greatness, polish, and creative mastery that is a hallmark of Blizzard’s approach to game-making."

Faries joined Activision in August 2018 as commissioner of Call of Duty Esports, before becoming head of leagues in August 2020 and then Call of Duty general manager in April 2021. Prior to that, she spent nearly 12 years with the National Football League in positions including director of consumer products and licensing, and vice president of marketing strategy and fan development.

Her appointment represents a significant change for Blizzard, whose leaders have in the past come up through the ranks of gaming and tech. J Allen Brack, who took over as president when Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime stepped down, began his time with the company as a producer on World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade in 2007, and has extensive development credits preceding that; Ybarra, who took the reins along with Jen Oneal when Brack resigned in 2021 over the workplace harassment and discrimination scandal at Blizzard, was previously the company's general manager of platform and technology, and before that served as vice president of Xbox Live and Game Pass at Microsoft. Oneal, who resigned just three months after becoming Blizzard's co-president, has a similarly long list of credits, including five years as the head of studio at Vicarious Visions.

Blizzard is still a big name in gaming, but it's struggled in recent years to make good things happen: World of Warcraft continues to trundle along, but Overwatch 2 perplexed fans with missing PvE content and controversial balance changes, while Diablo 4 has been a success but has also struggled balance issues and faces stiff competition from Path of Exile. A highly-anticipated survival game was also cancelled last week after six years of development time. Faries' background in business and marketing rather than game development could be taken as a sign that Microsoft isn't happy with the state of things at Blizzard and wants to have a more direct hand in its creative direction, similar to its big shakeup of management at ZeniMax and Bethesda.

"I remain inspired by Blizzard’s iconic legacy, and the transformative role gaming has played in my life and in the lives of others," Fairies wrote. "I cannot wait to get going—to listen, to learn, to empower, and to collaborate with all of you on our bold and bright future together. Together, may we forge many legendary days ahead."

Faries will officially take over as president of Blizzard Entertainment on February 5.