Blizzard absorbs Activision Studio after classic games team dismantles
(Bloomberg) – Video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. has taken another step in consolidating control of the Blizzard Entertainment division, which was once proud of its autonomy, by moving a 200-person design studio to its ranks . The studio, Vicarious Visions, had been a subsidiary of Activision since 2005 and worked on franchises like Skylanders, Crash Bandicoot and Tony Hawk. It will now focus entirely on Blizzard franchises, including Diablo, instead of creating its own games. Former Vicarious Visions studio director Jennifer Oneal will take a place on Blizzard’s management team, reporting directly to the president. The news, reported by GamesIndustry.biz, came just weeks after Blizzard quietly dismantled the company. one of its internal development teams, according to people. familiar with the business.
Blizzard, the creator of games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch, has traditionally developed most of its games in-house. But in recent years, Activision’s publishing arm has taken a stronger stake in Blizzard’s operations. Vicarious Visions, based in Albany, New York, has been working with Blizzard for the past year on the Diablo franchise, including a planned Diablo II remake, people familiar with the plans have said. They asked not to be identified to discuss private information.
A Blizzard spokesperson declined to comment on Vicarious Visions’ current plans, only confirming that the studio “has been working with Blizzard for some time.”
Until last year, the Diablo II remake was to be developed by Blizzard Team 1, which is part of the company’s Irvine, Calif. Campus, which has become known for reworking classic games. Its most recent release, in January 2020, was a remake called Warcraft III: Reforged. The title was poorly received due to issues and missing features, earning 59 out of 100 points on the Metacritic review aggregator – the lowest score a Blizzard game has ever achieved.
Team 1 members gathered to discuss what went wrong. Internal Blizzard documents reviewed by Bloomberg highlighted the game’s failures due to poor planning, poor communication, and a rushed exit due to financial pressure from management, among other factors. For example, Blizzard announced the game in November 2018 and started taking pre-orders for 2019 without notifying most of the development team first, according to several people who have worked on Warcraft III: Reforged.
Team 1 wanted to avoid repeating the mistakes of Warcraft III: Reforged on their next project, the Diablo II remake. Shortly after the postmortem, however, Blizzard pulled this project off the team and put the division behind Diablo IV in charge. A group of Vicarious Visions are also working on the remake, known as Diablo II: Resurrected.
On October 15, 2020, Blizzard informed Team 1 members that it was reorganizing the entire division, according to people who worked on Warcraft III: Reforged. Over the next several weeks, team members had the opportunity to interview for jobs elsewhere within Blizzard. Those who did not find a job in the company were gradually made redundant. Others have moved to independent studios recently created by veterans of top-tier companies, such as Frost Giant Inc. and DreamHaven Inc., started by co-founder and former Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime, whose departure has largely been marked the start of the takeover of Activision.
Team 1 was also responsible for the Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft II games. Blizzard slowed down development support for Heroes of the Storm in 2018. The same day Blizzard announced it was revamping the division, it publicly announced that StarCraft II was ending any ongoing development.
Blizzard has promised to continue fixing and updating Warcraft III: Reforged, although it will likely do so with another outsourced team. A spokesperson did not confirm who is handling the continued development of Warcraft III: Reforged, but said, “We are still committed to providing updates to support the community.”
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