Things have been changing at Blizzard, and a new report suggests that the studio aims to ship more games, and cut costs at most departments not directly related to game development. Parts of this change have already been visible, like when Blizzard made public plans to scale back development on Heroes of the Storm last week, or today’s Eurogamer report that 100 members of customer service staff in Ireland staff have accepted a voluntary severance agreement.
A new report from Kotaku suggests that this is all part of a growing internal mandate at Blizzard. “A lot of decisions now are being driven by business folks, marketing and finance folks,” one former employee says. “There’s a real struggle now between developers and the business people… Strategic decisions are being driven by the finance group.”
Executives like Armin Zerza, who transitioned from chief financial officer to chief operating officer last year, are helping to drive what the report refers to as “a major cultural shift.” Whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.
Blizzard’s own statement on HotS last week included a note that the studio now has more “more live games and unannounced projects than at any point in the company’s history,” which means more games than ever before are coming. That includes Diablo 4, and Kotaku’s report suggests that rumours around a new Overwatch project might not be unfounded.
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Game development will continue to expand, though a mandate for more regular releases would mean a fundamental shift in how Blizzard has traditionally approached its new titles. But other departments, from QA and customer service to esports and marketing, have a more uncertain future.
“Over the course of the last year,” another former employee tells Kotaku, “Blizzard has been trying very actively to find creative ways to cut costs that won’t draw negative press attention.” Those include internal employee buyout programmes, but there’s a fear – one that’s yet to be confirmed – that layoffs will follow in 2019.