Blizzard Entertainment mainstay and Senior Vice President of Story and Franchise Development Chris Metzen announced his retirement in a forum entry posted on his behalf on the company’s battle.net website.
Metzen began his career nearly 23 years ago, when Blizzard was still known as Chaos and the expansive Warcraft franchise was merely a twinkle in the company’s eye. Originally working on Justice League Task Force, Metzen contributed artwork, illustrations, and the documentation for Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Later, he was given the creative reigns in 1995’s Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, and he influenced much of the game’s story, mission, and scenario designs.
Metzen is one of the creators of Blizzard’s second major franchise, Diablo and was the lead designer for Starcraft. He has also provided voices for many characters scattered throughout Blizzard’s extensive game universe. His contributions to Blizzard's expansive lore is what John Lennon was to The Beatles, or what Steve Jobs was to Apple; he's one of the creative geniuses behind some of our most-cherished gaming memories. After an orange-colored (legendary) career, Metzen is ending his tenure at Blizzard Entertainment.
“I am retiring. Yup. Hangin’ up my guns. Clockin’ out. Takin’ the last gryphon out of Stormwind. You get the picture.”
Chris’s decision to retire shocked fans; Blizzard is on a roll with the success of Overwatch and World of Warcraft: Legion, and the timing could give some (who didn't read the personal thank-you note from Chris) the impression that Metzen is abandoning ship and headed to greener pastures. Metzen even noted the irony himself but assured fans that his departure came from a desire to slow down and spend time with his family.
“The reason I use the word ‘retire’ is because I’m not going to some other company or starting up new projects or anything remotely like that. It’s been a long, amazing stretch of years. Now it’s time to slow it down. Rest. Lay around on the couch and get fat. Well, fatter.…Seriously though, I’ll be focusing on the one thing that matters most to me in all the world—my family. They’re the core of my life and the source of my deepest joy and inspiration. In addition to raising our two little ones, we recently welcomed our new baby into the family! Being home with them all, having time and space to really live…to love my wife with all my strength…that’s my career now.”
With Metzen officially gone, the future of Blizzard’s storied lore is in question. Fans are particularly guarded about where the Warcraft franchise will go from here, creatively. The recent wounds caused by the in-game departures of cherished fan-favorite Warcraft characters voiced by Metzen (Varian Wrynn, Vol'jin) now feel significantly deeper than before, which was echoed by many fans when they heard of Metzen's real-life exit from the company. Will Thrall (also voiced by Metzen) be the next hero to fall to the Legion?
That doesn't appear to be the case (for now), and the former Blizzard executive will likely continue lending his voice to the company when it's needed. However, the timing of all this, in addition to Metzen's admission that retirement was a long time coming, could mean the deaths of Vol'jin and Varian were planned long ago as either a way to write Metzen out of a lead role, as a way to pay homage to him, or both. Either way, there is no bad blood between Blizzard and Metzen, who even tipped his hat to the company in his farewell letter, thanking them for the memories and expressing excitement about the future.
“I’ve never been more proud of Blizzard and the quality of its products than I am now. It’s remarkable that even after all these years we can still reach new heights and take the world for an amazing ride.I can’t wait to see where Blizzard’s worlds go next—and to experience them first-hand like everyone else does. As a fan. As an adventurer. Right back to the start.”
Metzen ended his career as he started it – as a fan. Now a mere mortal beholden to the ultimate quest of raising a family, his farewell forum post in which he thanked the community he helped to create, shape and popularize was a classy and humble finale for one of the most influential pillars in Blizzard's history, and his absence will leave a hole in the company, as well as the hearts of Blizzard fans around the world.