Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan Departs Blizzard, Aaron Keller to Replace
It’s a sad day for Overwatch fans everywhere as long-time Game Director and Blizzard veteran Jeff Kaplan has announced that he is departing Blizzard Entertainment. Aaron Keller, who has been on the Overwatch project since the game began development, will step up to replace him.
How Will Kaplan’s Departure Affect Overwatch 2?
There’s been no word on how this shake-up will affect development on Overwatch 2, which is said to be continuing at a “good pace.” That title was revealed at Blizzcon 2019, and while we have seen some new gameplay and reveals at Blizzcon Online 2021, there has not been a ton of news around it otherwise. This is at a time when Overwatch has been steadily declining in popularity, despite the launch of Overwatch League’s 2021 season, which was more successful than some detractors might have expected.
There’s also been no word on where Jeff Kaplan is headed next, but given his long tenure with Blizzard and several other developers who are working on projects he could be interested in (like Riot’s MMO, Valorant, or the many Blizzard spin-off companies that veterans have been founding), there are a plethora of possibilities for the former Overwatch dev.
“It was truly the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience,” Kaplan said in his announcement. “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.”
Keller Has Huge Shoes to Fill
With Keller stepping up to the plate, he’s going to have some big shoes to fill, but it sounds like he has some ambitious plans for the future of Overwatch.
“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,” incoming Overwatch Game Director Aaron Keller said. “While I have no pretenses on filling Jeff’s shoes, I will 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 has been known to be a passionate member of the Overwatch development team and community during his time at Blizzard, which also extended back to his time on World of Warcraft building that game.
“I love Overwatch. From our first pieces of concept art to the first maps we built, to the first time I was able to run around as Tracer (who at that early point shot laser beams out of her eyes), this game has just clicked with me. I love its inspiring, hopeful, beautiful world worth fighting for,” he continued. “I love its characters—larger than life, colorful, powerful, and global. And most of all, I love the fast, fluid gameplay requiring teamwork, situational awareness, and quick decision making. I also recognize that making games at Blizzard has always been a group effort and never about just one point of view. Together with the rest of the team, I feel fortunate that we have a deep bench of development and creative leaders, numerous veteran Blizzard artists and designers, and some extremely talented new blood as well—along with tons of support throughout the company for the live game and for Overwatch 2.”
The community was quick to mourn Jeff’s departure, who had been known as the face of Overwatch since the game’s reveal and had quickly gained fan’s hearts with his public appearances on the Developer Update videos. It’s unclear if Keller will step into that role once Blizzard returns to a more traditional work model in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.