The Blizzard preparing to win over fans this Friday at BlizzCon is not quite the same company it was a year ago, when the announcement of Diablo Immortal was met with disappointment and jeers. In 2019, Blizzard's been through layoffs, game cancellations, an international incident, and seen several prominent exits. A new report confirms that three more veteran developers exited the company after Blizzard canceled its secret StarCraft FPS project.
At Kotaku, Jason Schreier reports that Dustin Browder, Eric Dodds, and Jason Chayes all left "a few months ago," as confirmed by a Blizzard spokesperson. "They have been and always will be considered members of the Blizzard family, and we've loved working with them over the years," said the spokesperson. Browder was director of Heroes of the Storm and lead designer on StarCraft 2; Dodds and Chayes, respectively, served as director and production director of Hearthstone.
In June, Blizzard reportedly canceled its StarCraft FPS project codenamed "Ares" to refocus development efforts on Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4. Kotaku's new report confirms that an unannounced mobile game was also canceled at the same time. Browder, Dodds, and Chayes exited shortly thereafter.
These exits came in the wake of two major personnel shake-ups at Blizzard. In October 2018, Blizzard co-founder and former CEO Mike Morhaime stepped down, with former World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack taking on the role of company president. A few months later, Activision Blizzard laid off 800 employees across Blizzard and other studios. At the same time, Blizzard confirmed it would not release any "major" titles in 2019. Later, a month after the "Ares" cancellation, the second of Blizzard's three co-founders Frank Pierce announced his exit.
Though the past month has seen public backlash against Blizzard for the suspension it gave to professional Hearthstone player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai over his on-air pro-Hong Kong statement, BlizzCon 2019 planning started much earlier. Whether or not Blizzard showcases Overwatch, Diablo, Warcraft, or another reveal—and whether it can keep any of its surprises from leaking ahead of the show—BlizzCon is now a chance for Blizzard to assert its status and stability, as well as show that it has learned from its past year of turmoil.
With an Overwatch 2 reveal virtually guaranteed and former Xbox VP Mike Ybarra set to start as Blizzard's new executive VP and general manager right after BlizzCon, Blizzard has a chance to start 2020 on the upswing. We'll see if BlizzCon gets off to a promising start later this week.