Blizzard Entertainment has announced that Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan is leaving the company after 19 years. In a farewell message posted on Blizzard’s website, Kaplan wrote:
“It was truly the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience. I want to express my deep appreciation to everyone at Blizzard who supported our games, our game teams and our players. But I want to say a special thanks to the wonderful game developers that shared in the journey of creation with me.
“Never accept the world as it appears to be. Always dare to see it for what it could be. I hope you do the same.”
Blizzard also announced that Aaron Keller, an eighteen year Blizzard veteran, former World of Warcraft developer, and founding member of the Overwatch team, would be stepping into the role of game director. In a message to the Overwatch community, Keller said that the development of Overwatch 2 was “continuing at a good pace” and that the team would be sharing more regular updates soon.
Kaplan is the latest in a number of high profile departures from Blizzard that have occurred in recent years. Senior Vice President of Story and Franchise Development Chris Metzen, who served as a writer and later creative director on several of Blizzard’s biggest hits like StarCraft and Warcraft3, retired from the company in 2016. Mike Morhaime, the company’s co-founder and CEO, stepped down in 2018.
Several former Blizzard developers have founded new studios in the time since, mostly notably Dreamhaven, founded by Morhaime, and Frost Giant, founded by Tim Morten and Tim Campbell, the production lead on StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void and the lead designer of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, respectively.
There’s no word on what’s next for Kaplan yet, but several of the biggest names at Blizzard leaving the company and then starting new ones staffed almost exclusively by former Blizzard developers probably isn’t a good sign for the one of the most storied Western game studios, but only time will tell of these departures will impact Blizzard’s games. Blizzard is still developing Diablo 4 and and Overwatch 2, neither of which have release dates.