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Former Xbox Exec Mike Ybarra Joins Blizzard as General Manager

Mike Ybarra, a game industry veteran who left Microsoft earlier this month after nearly 20 years, is joining Blizzard Entertainment as executive VP and general manager.

Most recently, Ybarra was corporate VP of Xbox Live, Xbox Game Pass and Mixer. He joined Microsoft’s Xbox group in 2009 as GM of Xbox Live, after first joining the software giant in 2000 as a systems engineer.

Ybarra announced his move to Blizzard in a tweet Wednesday, saying he starts at the gaming company on Nov. 4 — but that he will be attending BlizzCon 2019, which will run Nov. 1-3 in Anaheim, Calif. “We will work with all our energy to serve gamers with incredible content and experiences,” he wrote. “I can’t wait to be part of this team.”

Ybarra comes on board as Blizzard remains in the midst of a hot storm of controversy over the company’s suspension of a “Hearthstone” pro player over comments in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. Several groups are planning to stage protests at BlizzCon over the issue.

After initially suspending Ng Wai Chung (aka “Blitzchung”) for a year from esports competition and saying it would rescind his prize money, Blizzard reduced the ban to six months and reinstated his winnings, but the company has refused to back off enforcement of the policy prohibiting players from doing anything to “offend a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damage Blizzard’s image.” In a Chinese language-only message on its official social media, Blizzard said it would “resolutely safeguard [China’s] national dignity.”

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Ybarra reports to Blizzard president and co-founder J. Allen Brack, who took over the role after the exit of co-founder Michael Morhaime a year ago. This summer, Blizzard’s other co-founder, Frank Pearce, announced he was leaving the company.

Marquee titles from Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Activision Blizzard, include “Warcraft,” “StarCraft,” “Diablo,” “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone.” Last week it launched “Overwatch Legendary Edition” on Nintendo Switch, a team-based shooter set across 28 distinct locations around the world.

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