Colonie — Simon Ebejer and his team at Vicarious Visions have always admired the community surrounding Blizzard Entertainment and its games.
As an estimated $72 billion game developer, Blizzard is responsible for multi-million dollar franchises like World Of Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft and Overwatch, and has built up an international reputation of creating expansive multiplayer experiences over the years. But now, another major player is grabbing a controller to join Blizzard’s team: Colonie-based Vicarious Visions.
“The future that we have at Blizzard is so bright,” Ebejer said. “And I’m just stoked, frankly, to be part of this next chapter of Vicarious Visions’ story and I’m humbled and honored to have the opportunity to be the studio head of the company during this time. I’m just super excited.”
Vicarious Visions announced this week that it has merged into Blizzard. The move comes after the 31-year-old local game developer spent the last 16 years as a subsidiary of Activision, working on several titles within the Crash Bandicoot, Guitar Hero and Skylanders franchises. More recently, the company’s highly successful remastered collection — Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 — became the fastest selling game in its franchise after selling 1 million copies in its first two weeks in September. Vicarious Visions was founded in 1991 by Karthik and Guha Bala, both of whom left in 2016. The company’s latest project recently took home trophies for Best Sports Game at both the Gamescom Awards and the Game Awards, but now, they’re looking to build up on Blizzard’s arsenal of titles.
“We realized that there was an opportunity for us to have a long-term partnership that benefits both Vicarious Visions and Blizzard,” said Ebejer, who took over his new role as part of the merger. “While working together, it’s become clear that we have an alignment in our values, especially the quality bars that we both set for ourselves. And we have a passion for making epic experiences to surprise and delight our fans. We’re just really excited for the future together.”
Vicarious Visions will keep its name, Ebejer said, as well as its roughly 200 in-house game developers. And while the company’s focus is shifting from general Activision franchises to Blizzard franchises, Ebejer thinks his 4 1/2 years of experience at the studio and 20 years of total experience in the industry, working across genres, will help him bring something special to Blizzard. He said Vicarious has collaborated with Blizzard for a “decent amount of time,” and that the two companies have developed a great relationship since.
The exterior of the company’s studio space in Menands will remain largely unchanged. Inside, decades of gaming artifacts and numerous other awards and pieces of concept art – including bright orange Kids Choice Awards – are housed in display cases. Some adjustments inside are expected with the merger and some new jobs may materialize, Ebejer said.
“We’re going to be working on some incredible stuff as a part of Blizzard and there’s a significant opportunity for the studio to grow as a result,” Ebejer said. “I think Capital Region residents can look forward to more great work from the studio, that hopefully the region will be proud of, and for us to continue to have a positive impact on the local economy as we create more game development jobs right here.”
Former Studio Head Jen Oneal will transition into the role of executive vice president of development at Blizzard.
“On a personal note, this transition brings me so much pride,” Oneal wrote on LinkedIn. “I started my journey at VV 17 years ago, starting as an associate producer and working my way up to studio head. It has been my great joy to work with a team so committed to meeting our goals, facing challenges head-on, sparking creativity and ultimately delivering great games to our players.”
Ebejer said he can’t yet discuss the titles they are working on, both Forbes and Bloomberg suggested the company may be working on a remake of Diablo 2
“I can’t obviously get into any specifics but it does mean a lot to see the passion of the community,” Ebejer said. “And the way that both VV fans and Blizzard fans are getting excited about the possibilities that we have ahead of us.”