Ex-Blizzard founder and president Mike Morhaime announced that he has founded a new video game publishing company this morning, and that its first two studios would be led by other departed Blizzard executives and designers. While it's not yet known what they're working on, and having high-profile veterans founding new ventures is far from a proven recipe for success, the announcement at the very least proves that the waves of senior staff who departed Blizzard in recent years were fleeing the company itself, not retiring from making games.
The publishing label that Morhaime leads is called Dreamhaven, while the two new studios under its banner are Moonshot and Secret Door. Moonshot, according to Dreamhaven's statement, is led by veteran Blizzard designers Jason Chayes, Dustin Browder, and Ben Thompson, while Secret Door is helmed by fellow Blizzard alumni Chris Sigaty, Alan Dabiri, and Eric Dodds. The two studios feature massive overlap between Blizzard's real-time strategy, Hearthstone, and MMO efforts over the years and it's hard to pigeonhole what each studio might be built to achieve. What might be more notable is that the Dreamhaven announcement does not highlight anyone's association with Overwatch or Diablo teams.
The press release states: "The team at Dreamhaven came together around a common goal to empower creators, help bring their ideas to life, and create original gaming experiences that foster meaningful connections between players."
The fact the publisher is called Dreamhaven, a refuge or safe space for dreams themselves, suggests that, at the very least, the new venture is a very expensive subtweet of Blizzard under president J. Allen Brack, who oversaw extensive layoffs at the company, a cynical response to support for the Hong Kong protests in the Hearthstone community, and a remaster of Warcraft 3 that was so poorly executed that fans took it as an insult and as it actually robbed people of the best parts of the original game.
Every issue with modern Blizzard cannot be laid at the feet of the new leadership regime under Activision, of course. Blizzard's longstanding racial insensitivity and deep weirdness around gender started under the supervision of many of these beloved founders who are part of Dreamhaven, and when Morhaime says in his statement that he wants to "bring people together regardless of backgrounds or boundaries" the bar for accomplishing that is higher than it was when World of Warcraft exploded in popularity.
The existence of Dreamhaven and its studios does call attention to the fact that the people who made some of the most beloved games in history weren't done with games when they left Blizzard. They were just done with Blizzard.