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Another key Xbox figure is heading to Blizzard

It's not uncommon to see some turnover in the lead-up to a new console generation. When someone's been with the same company for many years, though, it tends to come as more of a surprise. Rod Fergusson — who served as the head of The Coalition – saw his name in the credits of just about every Gears of War title since the series began. He announced last night he is departing Microsoft to lead the Diablo team at Blizzard.

"I began working on Gears of War over 15 years ago and since then, it has been the joy of my life," Fergusson tweeted. "But now it's time for a new adventure. I leave Gears in the great hands of The Coalition and can't wait for everyone to play Gears Tactics on April 28."

While most studios would leap at the chance to hire someone of Fergusson's stature, it is rather curious that Blizzard is bringing in a complete outsider to take the reins for Diablo.

Even more interesting is the fact that Fergusson is the second employee Blizzard was able to poach from the Xbox team in recent months.

Fergusson isn't the first

You might not be all that familiar with Mike Ybarra, but he played a very pivotal role in shaping the past, present, and future of Xbox. Ybarra spent spent 20 years at Microsoft, according to Engadget, where he served as "corporate vice president of Xbox Live, Game Pass and Mixer."

In November 2019, he also departed Microsoft and took a new gig at Blizzard.

"I'm very happy to announce I'm joining @Blizzard_Ent as Exec. Vice President and GM starting 11/4 (will be at #blizzcon!)," Ybarra tweeted back in October. "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."

Ybarra's hire was notable at the time because Blizzard was in the midst of a huge PR crisis, having just banned a Hearthstone player for a pro-Hong Kong protest during an event.

We can't say for certain why Blizzard is hiring these longtime Xbox employees, nor why these employees are leaving the Xbox team after so many years. Maybe Blizzard just wants to bring some experienced voices from outside into the company. Or maybe the direction the Xbox brand is going doesn't sit well with some.

Either way, we'll be on the lookout for more Blizzard hires and Xbox defections — especially if they connect as they did in the cases of Fergusson and Ybarra.