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New Leadership for Overwatch After Jeff Kaplan Leaves Blizzard

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Jeff Kaplan today announced he's leaving Blizzard after 19 years. Overwatch leadership has been passed on to Aaron Keller, a Blizzard veteran and founding member of the Overwatch team, who is the new Game Director.

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We want to let you know that Jeff Kaplan has decided to leave the company after a long and storied career here, and that Aaron Keller, a Blizzard veteran and founding member of the Overwatch team, will be stepping in as game director.

Aaron has been a critical part of the Overwatch team and a key driver in creating the vision for the game. He helped create Overwatch as an original member of the team, and as an 18-year veteran at Blizzard, he has worked side-by-side with Jeff for a long time, not only in building Overwatch but previously in helping to build WoW as well. A few words from Aaron: 

Greetings, Overwatch Community,  

Jeff’s been a great leader, mentor, and friend, and he knows how much we’re going to miss him. I’ve been lucky to work alongside him and the rest of the Overwatch team for many years in building something that continues to inspire people all around the world, and I’m honored to carry the torch forward.  

I love Overwatch. From our first pieces of concept art, to the first maps we built, to the first time I was able to run around as Tracer (who at that early point shot laser beams out of her eyes), this game has just clicked with me. I love its inspiring, hopeful, beautiful world worth fighting for. I love its characters—larger than life, colorful, powerful, and global. And most of all, I love the fast, fluid gameplay requiring teamwork, situational awareness, and quick decision making.  

I also recognize that making games at Blizzard has always been a group effort and never about just one point of view. Together with the rest of the team I feel fortunate that we have a deep bench of development and creative leaders, numerous veteran Blizzard artists and designers, and some extremely talented new blood as well—along with tons of support throughout the company for the live game and for Overwatch 2.  

Speaking of Overwatch 2, development is continuing at a good pace. We have an exceptional vision we’re executing on, the reaction from many of you to the updates we shared at BlizzConline thrilled us, and we have exciting reveals planned for this year and beyond as we ramp to launch. We’ll be sharing more frequent updates about Overwatch 2 progress and new features in the live game with you all very soon.  

While I have no pretenses about filling Jeff’s shoes, I’m excited to step into the game director role and continue to be part of a team that’s putting all of its heart, talent, and focus into the next iteration of Overwatch, and I’m honored to continue serving this incredible community. 

-Aaron 

We’re also tremendously grateful for Jeff’s contributions over the years. Please see a personal note from Jeff below:

i am leaving Blizzard Entertainment after 19 amazing years. 

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. 

gg,

jeffrey kaplan 

You’ll hear more from Aaron and the rest of the Overwatch team soon. In the meantime, please join us in thanking Jeff, and in welcoming Aaron into his new role. 

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Wow, ya hate to see it.  But I hope he either gets a wonderful retirement, or has promising adventures in the future.  He was one of the great ones with a passion for the community.

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It certainly doesn't leave a good impression, regardless of how actual development of Overwatch 2 is going, when game's director leaves during said development. Delays and continuous silence are definitely worrying.

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Jeez, the exodus continues..............

Shame Ion seems set on staying.............. Almost like he knows he wouldn't get a gig elsewhere!

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47 minutes ago, Arcling said:

It certainly doesn't leave a good impression, regardless of how actual development of Overwatch 2 is going, when game's director leaves during said development. Delays and continuous silence are definitely worrying.

Considering how communicative OW's team has been, OW2's just feels rather off. I'm sure it's fine, but still. It's weird. 

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1 hour ago, Halock said:

Considering how communicative OW's team has been, OW2's just feels rather off. I'm sure it's fine, but still. It's weird. 

I wonder if last years of content drought are worth it. Jeff's note is very curt, written without capitals, as if it was done in a hurry. It does look like something might have happened, like he was angry or just couldn't say more. Usually there is longer farewell message in these cases. Very generic "thank you for all your support" after all these years doesn't look right.

Edited by Arcling
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2 hours ago, Arcling said:

I wonder if last years of content drought are worth it. Jeff's note is very curt, written without capitals, as if it was done in a hurry. It does look like something might have happened, like he was angry or just couldn't say more. Usually there is longer farewell message in these cases. Very generic "thank you for all your support" after all these years doesn't look right.

I see the lack of capitals as indication of ill will being tossed around a lot, but I don't really buy it. He seemed like a sensible guy who liked what he did. Even if exceptionally angry about something I can't see him being so unprofessional as to burn bridges.

And their messages are always generic, I find. What can you say? The closer you spell out the truth of your feelings the more it seems like piling it on.

It reads to me like what the dude's communications always read like: saying the right thing while carefully winking at you that he's not taking it seriously either. 

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35 minutes ago, Halock said:

I see the lack of capitals as indication of ill will being tossed around a lot, but I don't really buy it. He seemed like a sensible guy who liked what he did. Even if exceptionally angry about something I can't see him being so unprofessional as to burn bridges.

Usually they would mention someone specific in their farewells. Something like: "I would like to thank x and y person, I'm leaving the game to a new director who's a great guy etc.". Especially the latter to ensure that everything is ok. Yet there is nothing here, it's very vague. Oddly short farewell to something he clearly loved so much. Perhaps we will eventually know more, but it might not be any time soon, if his contract forbids him from working for competition (could be 6 months, or even a year or so).

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personally glad to see him gone.  Might not have been all his ideas, but I hate the direction Overwatch took as it aged under him.  It went from being a really fun  unique shooter (letting multiple people play the same character, no role checks, etc) into being just another copy of all the other shooters with the goal seeming to care more about e-sport relevance than actually being fun.

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Honestly IMO Overwatch 2 has been a super sketchy concept from the beginning.    Tried it at Blizzcon, and it's basically Overwatch 1 with a (not noticable unless you look hard) new paintjob and a PVE campaign.    Said campaign is exactly like the ones in Starcraft/Warcraft RTS, where you progress through pre-set paths, get some powerups at set points and introduce characters and whatnot.    

Other than that, it's exactly like Overwatch 1 and iirc they've said you'll be able to play against each other with either game and both will get the same new characters.     IE it's the same engine under the new paintjob.

It feels like this could have EASILY been a small dlc/expansion...but they wanted a Overwatch 2 per the bean counters, which probably is going to sell at a higher price than either more realistic option.    Jeff seemed to allude to that at the last Blizzcon where he said something to the effect of "I know there's a lot of questions and we need to provide some answers, and they'll be coming" as he talked about the game.

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Usually i would say well its not so unusual for a job change especially in his position even the time doesn't seem odd to me i mean we re still in a pandemic and that kinda changes the perspective of where do you see yourself in a few years

so like metzen maybe wanna spend more time with the family or do something entirely different is not that unrealistic

but the note he left was kinda cold so i guess its not so unrealistic that he left for the reason of disagreement

but what ever his reasons where well all we can do is wish him well and hope for the best
for him and OW2

but to all doomsayers blizzard won't disappear blizzard is still a major player so pls stop it if you dont like blizz anymore move on
but dont spread those doomsayer posts i mean especially wow is declared dead since how many years? and it still provides a huge part of blizzards income so

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First David Kim, now Jeff Kaplan. Blizzard keeps losing their most valuable members year after year. This is never a good sign. Activision is slowly killing Blizzard since the merge and sucking its soul; it is becoming another EA.

I hope both Kim and Kaplan find better places. They're talented and devoted to the craft, and deserve better.

Edited by Valhalen

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4 hours ago, Valhalen said:

First David Kim, now Jeff Kaplan. Blizzard keeps losing their most valuable members year after year. This is never a good sign. Activision is slowly killing Blizzard since the merge and sucking its soul; it is becoming another EA.

I hope both Kim and Kaplan find better places. They're talented and devoted to the craft, and deserve better.

Just a theory, but what if they didn't "loose him", but deliberately got rid of him? Don't get me wrong, I love Jeff and everyone knows he's a fan favourite, but as WC3:Reforged illustrated these old Blizzard-veterans are not always best-suited for the 21st century video game industry and what they've shown us from OW2 at Blizzcon is hardly spectacular. In other words: the game is in a huge delay and with all the stuff they promised they may have been setting up a chain of catastrophic events similar to that of the Cyberpunk launch story. If I were a major shareholder those would be things heavily weighing against Tigole.

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9 hours ago, Badadada said:

Just a theory, but what if they didn't "loose him", but deliberately got rid of him? Don't get me wrong, I love Jeff and everyone knows he's a fan favourite, but as WC3:Reforged illustrated these old Blizzard-veterans are not always best-suited for the 21st century video game industry and what they've shown us from OW2 at Blizzcon is hardly spectacular. In other words: the game is in a huge delay and with all the stuff they promised they may have been setting up a chain of catastrophic events similar to that of the Cyberpunk launch story. If I were a major shareholder those would be things heavily weighing against Tigole.

It is an interesting theory, but I wonder if that is the case. WC3 Reforged was just Blizzard as a whole failing to deliver a proper remaster. Old veterans of Blizzard gave us the StarCraft remaster and it worked like a charm. I don't think it has anything with the products itself, but with Activision slowly killing creative direction.

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