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Blizzard’s bad-news year continues with another co-founder’s departure

Blizzard’s bad-news year continues with another co-founder’s departure
Blizzard Entertainment

Frank Pearce, one of Blizzard Entertainment’s three original founding staffers, announced his intention to leave the game-making company on Friday, effective immediately.

Pearce’s announcement came via a Friday blog post at Blizzard’s official site, which was appended with a note from current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack. The combined blog post indicates that last year, Pearce “stepped into an advisory role to help with the transition,” which seems to indicate that his departure has been some time coming. It’s unclear whether this advisory-transition period began anywhere near the time another Blizzard co-founder, Mike Morhaime, left the company in October 2018.

The departure of Pearce as chief product officer leaves only one of Blizzard Entertainment’s original co-founders, Allen Adham, at the helm. Adham returned to Blizzard in 2016 after a ten-year game-development hiatus to become the company’s senior vice president. Adham, Pearce, and Morhaime founded the company, which was first named Silicon & Synapse, in 1991. Their first video game under the S&S label was RPM Racing for the SNES.

Any way you slice it, Friday’s news lands smack in the middle of an off period for the beloved PC game maker. Morhaime’s departure as president came shortly before a massive slate of layoffs, a change in its CFO position, a refocus on the company’s existing IP (instead of new game series), a StarCraft spin-off cancellation, and an announcement of zero “major” game releases from the developer in 2019. Many of these reports have included an asterisk of rumors about Activision’s presence at Blizzard growing in intensity.

Additionally, the news comes well after the very, very cool response by fans to Diablo Immortal, the series’ first official smartphone entry, at Blizzcon 2018. Whether we see any hint of that game in 2019, let alone the long-teased Diablo 4, remains to be seen. (Perhaps at Blizzcon 2019?)

“[Blizzard’s] efforts were always guided by well-intentioned purpose,” Pearce wrote on Friday. “We made games that we wanted to play, believing that like-minded people would also want to play those games. Today we characterize it more specifically with the ambitious vision of bringing the world together through epic entertainment. I am so proud to have had the chance to positively impact the lives of so many people through the experiences we have created.” The letter goes on to describe a retirement-like transition to hobbies like exploring the outdoors and learning a musical instrument, and his passing-the-throne statement includes a belief that the company’s remaining leadership “truly understand[s] what is foundationally most important for Blizzard and our community.”

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