March came in like a lion for Santa Monica-based game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc., which has seen a high-profile game rollout, the arrival of a new senior executive and the departure of a key company veteran.
On March 10, the company unveiled “Call of Duty: Warzone,” the latest installment in one of the company’s most successful franchises. The free-to-play, battle royale-style game attracted more than 15 million players in three days, exceeding expectations, according to Jeff Cohen, an analyst at investment bank Stephens Inc.
One day later, Activision Blizzard announced the appointment of Google veteran Daniel Alegre as president and chief operating officer, effective April 7.
Alegre will oversee Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment and King Digital Entertainment in his new role. He’ll report directly to Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick, according to the company.
“I was deeply impressed by Daniel’s entrepreneurial drive and broad and deep experience in driving global growth across a variety of businesses in a rapidly changing industry,” Kotick said in a statement.
“Our greatest challenges are prioritizing the many opportunities we have and recruiting and retaining the talent needed to execute with focus and excellence,” he added. “Daniel is a proven leader with a long track record of success doing both.”
Alegre, who worked at Google for more than 16 years, most recently served as the company’s president of global retail and shopping. Prior to that, he was Google’s president of global and strategic partnerships.
He also ran Google’s Asia Pacific and Japan businesses, where he started the company’s operations in China, Southeast Asia and India and expanded Google’s footprint in Japan, Australia and South Korea.
“His skillset really complements what (Activision) is looking to do in the future in terms of adding new geographies and expanding their advertising businesses,” Cohen said.
Alegre replaces longtime Activision executive Coddy Johnson, who will continue as a special adviser to CEO Kotick.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any major shift in strategies. I think a lot of the things that Coddy has put in place under Bobby Kotick are going to be continued,” Cohen said.
In another key move for the company, longtime Activision Blizzard creative executive Michael Chu, lead writer for the company’s “Overwatch” franchise, announced his departure.
“Twenty years after first walking through the doors at Blizzard, I’m moving on to new adventures!” Chu shared in a March 11 tweet. “Overwatch has been an amazing experience and one that I will treasure forever. Thank you to everyone for the support over the years.”
Chu was responsible for writing character backstories and the majority of in-game dialogue for “Overwatch.” He also worked on production of the game’s animated shorts. Additionally, Chu wrote for Blizzard’s “Diablo” and “Warcraft” universes.
“It’s never great when a head writer for a game leaves,” Cohen said. “But I do think Blizzard is a company that can withstand that kind of change. They have a lot of creatives behind them.”
Activision has seen several management departures since co-founder Michael Morhaime left his role as president in October 2018. In early 2019, the company announced a new chief financial officer, two days after it dismissed Spencer Neumann, the former chief financial officer, for undisclosed reasons. In July, Frank Pearce, one of Blizzard’s co-founders, announced he was leaving the company.
While Activision’s stock has dipped recently, Cohen said that’s “more of a result of just the overall market rather than anything specific to the departures or the new game.”
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