When Chris Metzen left Blizzard in 2016 after 23 years at the studio, it was a big deal. He was the senior vice president of story and franchise development and the creative director of Overwatch, and had amassed production and design credits on just about everything Blizzard had done over the years, from the original Warcraft: Orcs and Humans to World of Warcraft: Legion.
At the time, Metzen said he wasn't moving on to something different, but was really and truly retiring: "I’m not going to some other company or starting up new projects or anything remotely like that. It’s been a long, amazing stretch of years. Now it’s time to slow it down. Rest. Lay around on the couch and get fat."
But times change, and so has Metzen's mind. He announced today that he's joined with former Blizzard vice president of quality assurance Mike Gilmartin to launch a new tabletop games company called Warchief Gaming.
"Tabletop is where I learned to be creative with my friends growing up, playing D&D, playing Warhammer. Loving these ideas and playing these games in the same space as my best friends. Those are some of my most cherished memories," Metzen said in an interview with VentureBeat. "At 47, I come back to that. Even after that glorious Blizzard experience, I want that intimate scale again. This is my path."
Metzen's days of being a "giant corporate officer" in a huge company like Blizzard are behind him, he said, but he's excited by the small scale and "simplicity" of this new venture, and of having full control over what's done with it.
"It was a privilege to be able to work on all those worlds at Blizzard for all those years. But in this phase of my life, I guess I would say out loud, I’m interested in owning my own ideas," he said. "I’m interested in being able to develop them the way my gut tells me I should, without oversight of people I don’t know. That’s a big theme for me, that ownership and authorship."
Well, I guess retirement didn’t last as long as I thought it would... I’ve started a new career adventure! New worlds await!Come see what the hubbub’s all about!https://t.co/0uGACe0r0c#WarchiefgamingOctober 27, 2020
Moving into tabletop gaming is also a way for Metzen to recover from his years at Blizzard: He emphasized that he was "in love with it all" while he was there, and that World of Warcraft remains his favorite videogame of all time, but said that the pace took a toll on his life, "because you’re never done with your workday."
"I think I damaged my transmission a bit, kind of ground my clutch down," he said. "Getting back into this stuff with Mike and starting this company, I think I’ve found it at last. Being that man at home and being a creative dude in my daily life. It feels good. It’s hard to collate all of that. But I think this feels like balance."
Warchief currently has just three full-time employees and hasn't announced its first project yet, but it's going to be "some cool shit," Metzen said. "Maybe we’ll find an audience. That would be great. Maybe we won’t. I don’t know. But oh God, I’m having fun again. Jamming with my friends and hooking these ridiculous ideas and these crazy worlds. I needed this in my life."
More information on its first projects is expected to be revealed "over the next month or so" at warchiefgaming.com.