Overwatch Community Divided Following Jeff Kaplan Departure News
It's the end of an era as Overwatch boss Jeff Kaplan has officially parted ways with Blizzard's hero shooter. While Overwatch has been a staple of the shooter and esports scene since 2016, Kaplan's legacy with Blizzard goes all the way back to 2002, where he joined the World of Warcraft teams as a designer. As Kaplan rose through the ranks, he became the de facto kingpin of Overwatch and helped steer the game to what it's known as today.
With BlizzCon 2021 having recently wrapped, and players looking to the future with hopes of Overwatch 2 getting an actual release date, Kaplan stepping down has come at an unusual time. We know the world has been upended by COVID-19 (which is partly to blame for Overwatch 2's delay), but with Kaplan presumably having ploughed so much time into the sequel, it's a shame that he won't see it through to release. As fans still reel from Kaplan's imminent departure, opinions are split on whether this is the dawn of a new era or the beginning of the end for Overwatch high command.
Why did Jeff Kaplan leave Overwatch?
To say that Kaplan's departure is a shock to the system would be an understatement. The official Play Overwatch site confirmed that longstanding Blizzard employee and Overwatch OG Aaron Keller will step into Kaplan's massive shoes.
Writing to the Overwatch community, Kaplan explained, "I am leaving Blizzard Entertainment after 19 amazing years. It was truly the honour of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience.
"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".
In terms of what's next, Blizzard has promised an update on Overwatch 2 soon, with a hopeful look at “new features in the live game”. That's all well and good, but what's everyone saying about the Kaplan-shaped hole in the company?
What have the fans and players said about Jeff Kaplan's Overwatch departure?
As you can imagine, there was a mix of love and hate for the news. While many praised Kaplan as a god among the gaming world for his work on Overwatch, others said it's time for some much-needed new blood as we wait for Overwatch 2. Others were notably angry with Kaplan's decision and the seemingly abrupt departure from Blizzard. Famed Overwatch YouTuber Tom "Stylosa" Stewart simply wrote, "You have got to be f*****g joking me".
Team SoloMid's Gale Adelade just put a series of question marks. Nikola "sleepy" Andrews thanked Kaplan as he wrote, "Thank you for everything Jeff. 7 words could never properly reflect my gratitude to you for all the happiness overwatch has given me in the 5 years I've played it. I wish you luck with whatever you move onto next, and I'll be patiently waiting for other games you make:3c".
The official Seoul Dynasty Twitter changed its profile to Seoul JEFFasty and wrote a poignant, "'This is Jeff from the Overwatch team' gonna miss that. Thank you for everything Jeff!"
The Guangzhou Charge followed in Seoul Dynasty's footsteps by also changing its profile picture to Jeff - which has been adopted by several orgs. Atlanta Reign and Hangzhou Spark also changed their names to honour Kaplan. Our personal favourite was someone setting up a shrine to Kaplan and sharing their picture on Reddit. It made it seem a bit like Kaplan had died, but we get the sentiment. The OP also wrote, "Jeff is pure light".
Not everyone was team Kaplan though. A disgruntled player wrote, "Just as I got back into being happy in OW competitive as a chill night time activity, Jeff Kaplan just bounces. F**k, man, now @Blizzard_Ent will just be lootboxes and Pay to Win", while someone else added a short, "Lmao f**k you guys i'm out".
Content creator Francine “Fran” Vo concluded, "Waking up thinking about playing new games and then jeff quitting soon after is the biggest sign I need". it's clear that players and fans are firmly split into two camps on whether this is for the best. The wounds are still a little raw, so we'll have to wait and see if the anger dies down. Whichever way you look at it though, Jeff Kaplan is leaving behind a massive legacy that hasn't just affected the Overwatch world, but the entire esports scene as we know it today. Take a bow, Mr. Kaplan.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment