You don’t want to do that either. You think you do, but you don’t.
-J. Allen Brack, BlizzCon 2013
The word is out via a Blizzard press release that Mike Morhaime is stepping down as the president of Blizzard Entertainment. He will be replaced by J. Allen Brack, senior vice president and executive producer for World of Warcraft.
Mike Morhaime will remain with Blizzard in a strategic advisory role, but a statement from him published by Blizzard doesn’t go into detail as to why he chose to step down at this time.
In addition Ray Gresko, a ten year Blizzard veteran who was involved with both Diablo III and Overwatch is stepping up to be chief development officer, while Blizzard founder Allen Adham, who rejoined the company about two years back, will also be joining the executive team to oversee the development of “several new games.”
What does all this mean?
When a long time leader like Mike Morhaime steps down after 27 years, it is generally because somebody is tired. He is either tired of the position or somebody else is tired of his style. And an advisory role can be many things; a thank you for years of service, a route to keep him from moving to or creating a competitor, or a way to keep a warm backup handy if the new leadership messes up.
And what does J. Allen Brack’s ascension mean? Blizzard is a big organization, and is part of an even bigger one, so this won’t have the impact of somebody like Smed leaving Daybreak. But it may mean change is in the wind.
You can make up all sorts of theories if you set your mind to it. What does it mean when the executive producer of WoW steps up to run the company? And what are these “several new games?”
Anyway, I expect we will get some additional info at BlizzCon in a month.
Addendum: A Venture Beat interview with Mike Morhainme at Blizzard’s 25 year mark, if you want some history.