If Blizzard's year seemed a little weird to you, what with longtime co-founder Mike Morhaime leaving, Hearthstone director Ben Brode leaving, and the Diablo Immortale debacle, a new report suggests that next year could see some additional changes as the company is being asked to cut costs.
According to Kotaku Blizzard has been under cost-cutting measures throughout 2018. These measures haven't resulted in any layoffs but rather an expansion of Blizzard's voluntary leave program "Career Crossroads" which offers employees a generous severance package for voluntarily leaving the company to seek new careers or education opportunities.
This program was primarily for customer service representatives but have expanded to include QA and IT workers at Blizzard as well. According to Eurogamer over 100 customer service employees at Blizzard's Cork, Ireland office have taken a buyout with sums reportedly as high a one year's salary. This has kicked off fears that Blizzard's customer service operations will decline, but this is just one aspect of the cost-cutting happening at Blizzard.
Another, clearer example is Blizzard shuttering Heroes of the Storm esports and slowing down development of the game to focus on other projects. Heroes of the Storm was reportedly the worst performing game in Blizzard's current library and the viewership for its esports programs were much smaller compared to Overwatch or Hearthstone. But esports players who played Heroes of the Storm competitively were still caught off guard by the news.
According to sources these changes could be attributed to the growing influence of the company's finance wing who are increasingly becoming more prominent in the company's future direction. That in turn seemed to signal to sources that Activision, which previously had a hands-off approach to Blizzard, will be taking a more active interest in Blizzard.
This has stoked fears of a change in culture. Blizzard is known for taking years before launching a new game, and just as long to announce new projects. Activision meanwhile releases major games on an annual basis with little signs of slowing down. Blizzard is apparently moving towards more game development as the company is hiring for even more projects in the future.
There are even rumors of layoffs in 2019 according to the report, but from non-game development sectors as making more games is one of Blizzard's key priorities.
All this seems to indicate a couple things. Blizzard is reigning in the costs of non-game departments and pushing for more video game releases in the future. It's unclear if these mandates will have immediate effect, but it does seem to signal some internal changes at a company once known for its steadfast pace.