BlizzCon takes place this weekend, and this year promises to be an interesting one, for a couple of reasons. One, because we're pretty confident that major announcements including Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 are going to be made, and two, because of the furor surrounding Blizzard's heavy-handed punishment of former Hearthstone Grandmaster Chung "blitzchung" Ng Wai, for his call to "liberate Hong Kong" during a post-match interview.
The fallout from Blizzard's ruling included the loss of high-profile Hearthstone personalities and bipartisan condemnation from the US government, which is something you don't see every day, and also outrage among much of its North American fanbase—the fans who are mostly likely to show up for BlizzCon. That naturally sparked concerns about the possibility of protest, which given Blizzard's desire to bounce back from last year's not-great BlizzCon is the last thing it needs.
Crunched in the midst of a Kotaku report on how 2019 went sideways for Blizzard is another bit of news, not directly related but still very interesting, about a trio of veteran developers you may have heard of—StarCraft 2 lead designer and Heroes of the Storm game director Dustin Browder, former Hearthstone director Eric Dodds, and former Hearthstone production director Jason Chayes. All three of them, it turns out, are no longer with the company.
It isn't explicitly connected, but their departure came shortly after the cancellation of a StarCraft-based shooter codenamed Ares. Both Browder and Dodds were reportedly working on that game prior to its shutdown.
"Yes, Eric, Dustin, and Jason made the decision to move on from Blizzard a few months ago. They have been and always will be considered members of the Blizzard family, and we’ve loved working with them over the years. We wish them the best for the future," Blizzard confirmed in a statement.
"That said, we want to make sure it’s clear that development of Blizzard games has always been a collaborative effort between many talented, longstanding teammates here continuing that good work."
It's surprising that three relatively high-profile departures could go unnoticed for so long, and while it's not a crushing blow (especially compared to, say, the Democrats and Republicans teaming up to call on the company to support "American values"), it's probably not going to do much to restore confidence in Blizzard's leadership among its erstwhile fan base either.
Blizzard doesn't seem too bothered by it, however. The company told Kotaku that it welcomes "open, constructive, and civil discussion of different perspectives at the show," and said that this year will be no different.