The latest story over at Blizzard Entertainment Inc. may not be as action-packed as its games, but from a corporate standpoint it could be part of a significant shift for the Irvine-based company, OC’s largest software firm by employee count.
Parent Activision Blizzard said Jan. 22 it is merging the firm’s Vicarious Visions design studio of about 200 people into Blizzard Entertainment and the team will be “fully dedicated to existing Blizzard games and initiatives.” Blizzard is the maker of ultra-popular games such as World of Warcraft, Overwatch and the Diablo franchise.
Bloomberg News pegged it as a notable change: “Video game publisher Activision Blizzard took another step in consolidating control over division Blizzard Entertainment, which once took pride in its autonomy, by shifting a 200-person design studio to its ranks.”
Vicarious Visions “will now focus entirely on Blizzard’s franchises, including Diablo, instead of making its own games,” the news agency said. Vicarious Visions has been a subsidiary of Activision since 2005.
As part of the move, Vicarious Visions studio head Jen Oneal has been promoted to Blizzard executive vice president of development, where she joins the company’s leadership team and will report directly to Blizzard President J. Allen Brack.
The shift of Vicarious Visions was first reported by GamesIndustry.biz and was confirmed to the Business Journal by an Activision Blizzard spokesperson.
“Blizzard, the maker of games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch, has traditionally developed most of its games in-house. But in recent years, the Activision publishing arm has taken a stronger hand in Blizzard’s operations,” Bloomberg News noted.
Vicarious Visions, based in Albany, N.Y., has been working with Blizzard since last year on the Diablo franchise, including a planned remake of Diablo II, Bloomberg quoted people familiar with the matter as saying. The Diablo II project was taken away from Blizzard’s team following the poor reception for another game and has been renamed “Diablo II: Resurrected.”
Bloomberg reported that the departure of Blizzard co-founder and former Chief Executive Mike Morhaime “widely signaled the beginning of Activision’s takeover.”
Morhaime was president of Blizzard in 2018 when he ceded that role to Brack, the World of Warcraft executive producer. Morhaime left the company in 2019.
Morhaime, credited with pioneering multiplayer online gaming, went on to found game developer Dreamhaven in Irvine last year. The new enterprise has already announced its first two studios—Moonshot Games and Secret Door.
Blizzard is currently gearing up for its
BlizzConline virtual fanfest, scheduled to take place Feb. 19-20.