It might still be in the headlines every day for organizational chaos, union busting and being part of the biggest gaming acquisition ever, but Blizzard is apparently hard at work on its next original gaming world.
Though it offered few specifics, the company teased a “survival game in an all-new universe” this week, known for now only as “Unannounced Survival Game.” The company linked to a job postings page with the announcement, which also featured a few glimpses of art from the forthcoming game.
In the art, a hunter clad in furs and some kind of skull helmet situation crouches with an axe, appearing to track something near a fairy tale-esque portal. Another piece of concept art shows a modern scene with two people peering through another portal to a magical land.
The art doesn’t give much away, but the concept does look compelling, particularly for a company so good at building creative, seamless multiplayer worlds. And the survival game concept would be a fresh and probably very refined entry into a genre popularized on Twitch by games like Fortnite and Rust. Blizzard’s last major fresh IP was esports mega-hit Overwatch, which has a now-delayed sequel on the way at some point, possibly 2023.
It’s a tumultuous time for one of the world’s biggest gaming studios. Activision Blizzard, which publishes hit games like the Call of Duty franchise, Overwatch and World of Warcraft, remains embroiled in a scandal that broke open with news of a California state lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and discrimination at the company last year.
The company is also being investigated by the SEC, which began issuing subpoenas to employees late last year. Meanwhile, for now the broader company is still led by Bobby Kotick, its chief executive who was aware of the serious allegations of workplace misconduct within his company and failed to do anything about them. Bloomberg reports that Kotick is expected to leave once the deal closes, with longtime Head of Xbox Phil Spencer stepping into the role of Microsoft Gaming CEO to help lead the company.
Amid all of this — or rather because all of this — Microsoft announced plans to acquire the company for $68.7 billion earlier this month. The massive deal would set records, consolidate a number of the biggest games under one of the biggest console makers and tempt fate at a time that federal and state regulators are more wary than ever about tech companies building unstoppable monopolies.
It didn’t need another reason to make headlines, but Activision Blizzard also declined to voluntarily recognize a union created by a group of QA testers at Raven Software, a division within the company, this week. The group at Raven had previously been on strike for more than a month to protest the firing of 12 contract workers.
On Twitter, a number of Blizzard workers expressed optimism that the new ownership could help stabilize the company while also setting it on a better track, leaving its history of toxic workplace culture behind. Assuming the deal with Microsoft goes through, the gaming giant will have one of the most established tech companies in the world calling the shots, and that kind of maturity and stability surely won’t hurt as it seeks to hire up for its next major IP.