Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan, one of the highest-profile figures at Blizzard Entertainment who's well known to many fans as “Papa Jeff,” has left the company.
"It was truly the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience," Kaplan wrote in his farewell message. "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."
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.➡️ https://t.co/119g1mIh4M pic.twitter.com/w2Pmq3sBKnApril 20, 2021
Kaplan was at Blizzard for 19 years (here's the whole story, as he told it in 2017), and prior to Overwatch also worked as a designer and director on World of Warcraft and several expansions. He became known as the face of Overwatch through the regular community update videos posted to YouTube, but his best work—in video, at least—surely occurred in the annual Overwatch Yule Log specials, in which he would sit stone still in front of a blazing fire and Christmas tree, staring blankly into the camera while occasionally sipping from an Overwatch coffee mug.
Kaplan’s role on Overwatch will be assumed by Aaron Keller, currently the assistant game director.
"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," Keller said in his own message.
"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."
Keller also noted that development of Overwatch 2 is "continuing at a good pace," and that Blizzard will begin sharing more frequent updates on the game's status soon. We learned more about the sequel's focus on cooperative PvE missions and new hero Sojourn at BlizzCon 2021.