One of the longest-tenured employees of Blizzard Entertainment is leaving the company. After 19 years of working on the early foundations of World of Warcraft and creating the world of Overwatch, Jeff Kaplan has revealed that after 19 years he will no longer be working for the company. Blizzard announced this through a blog post, as well as announcing Kaplan’s successor as Director to the Overwatch franchise, longtime Blizzard employee Aaron Keller.
Help us thank Jeff Kaplan for being the Mercy to our Genji. Thank you for always daring to see the world as it could be.
Also, help us welcome Aaron Keller as Overwatch’s new Game Director. We can’t wait to continue fighting for the future with you.
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) April 20, 2021
In his statement, Kaplan thanks both the fans and his fellow developers that have been with him on this 19-year journey, “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.” Neither Kaplan nor Blizzard has elaborated on this sudden departure, nor did Kaplan state what his future endeavors would be.
Kaplan’s successor Aaron Keller made his own statement regarding his new position, as well as establishing the fact that Overwatch 2 is still an ongoing project, “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.” Keller mentions that he has “no pretenses about filling Jeff’s shoes” and that he is looking forward to his new role and completing the project that Kaplan started.
Needless to say, the Blizzard community, especially the Overwatch community, is in shock over Kaplan’s abrupt departure. Kaplan was a main fixture in the world of Overwatch, but long before that, he was one of the main pillars for the beginnings of World of Warcraft. He continued to develop Blizzard’s MMORPG through the expansion Wrath of the Lich King before getting the chance of a lifetime to direct his own title. That title would become Overwatch, and it would go onto be critically acclaimed, garnering numerous Game of the Year awards, and would end up winning Game of the Year in 2016.
Kaplan and Blizzard announced the follow-up, Overwatch 2, at BlizzCon 2019. While we were there, we spoke to Kaplan about how they came up with the current system for the game, offering us some excellent insight, as well as showing his love and passion for both the project and Blizzard in general. We got to see some new updates to the title during BlizzConline, much of which aimed at new maps, and hero changes. It’ll be interesting to see how the progression of Overwatch 2 goes from here on out, but hopefully, Kaplan’s exit doesn’t hinder any of the development. One thing is for sure though, Jeff Kaplan has left his mark on both Blizzard and the video game industry, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.