Blizzard absorbs acclaimed Activision studio as a dedicated “support” team [Updated]
The corporate behemoth organism that is Blizzard Entertainment, which exists in a symbiotic state next to megaton game publisher Activision, became bigger on Friday with a surprise announcement: It has absorbed a game studio within the Activision family, effective immediately.
Vicarious Visions, a longtime game studio that was acquired by Activision in 2005, has been shuffled out of the Activision ecosystem and pumped directly into Blizzard’s veins. In a statement offered to GamesIndustry.biz, Blizzard confirmed that the 200+ staff at Vicarious Vision has been shifted to a “long-term support” team focused entirely on “existing Blizzard games and initiatives.” The news also includes a mild shuffle of leadership, sending current Vicarious studio head Jen Oneal to the Blizzard leadership board as executive vice president of development.
The statement did not clarify exactly when this arrangement began, nor which of Blizzard’s “existing” projects would receive Vicarious staff support in particular. (Blizzard representatives did not immediately respond to Ars Technica’s questions about the deal.) As of press time, neither Blizzard nor Vicarious have published details or terms about the deal on their respective blogs or social media channels. In fact, Vicarious Visions’ website is currently offline altogether.
Where will they land in the credits scroll?
Vicarious certainly has its share of publicly announced Blizzard projects to pick from, between Overwatch 2, Diablo IV, and whatever World of WarCraft expansion eventually emerges like clockwork. Or, heck, maybe Vicarious has been brought on board to finally wrest WarCraft III: Reforged from its shameful spiral as 2020’s most disappointing video game.
[Update, 7:48 p.m. EST: A Friday report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier cites “people familiar with the company” with a bold claim about the Vicarious team’s first major Blizzard project: a remake of the acclaimed action-RPG Diablo II. Schreier claims that a previous team had been leading the project, currently dubbed Diablo II: Resurrected, but was removed after the team in question fumbled the WarCraft III: Reforged launch. Vicarious has been involved with the project since some time in 2020, Schreier writes, and possibly as early as the D2 project’s reorganization in October.]
Original story resumes: Whatever the project(s) may be, the staff certainly won’t continue the studio’s stellar track record as one of Activision’s brighter spots. Whether it was the studio’s fantastic work getting 2020’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 into twitch-perfect shape, massaging the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy into a solid remaster, or even delivering one of the Marvel universe’s best co-op brawlers in an era well before Iron Man redeemed the comic empire’s public reputation, Vicarious will forever be remembered as an Activision bright spot. We hope the same can be said for the team’s future work, as it’s shuffled into the bottom of a credits scroll for existing Blizzard properties.
Blizzard has rarely gone to the trouble of absorbing an outside studio—with “Blizzard North” being the largest exception, when the company took on David Brevik’s existing team (then dubbed Condor) to formally join the Blizzard family in 1995. This concluded a bidding war: “3DO offered us twice as much money,” Brevik said in a 2016 GDC presentation. “We turned them down. Really, because we felt that Blizzard really got us and got [Diablo 1]. We were so close in company culture and beliefs.”