In August, Blizzard released the sixth expansion pack for World of Warcraft. That add-on, Legion, has been met with a lot of love from fans and critics. But with all the good news hitting, a big shift is about to happen to the game behind the scenes.
In a forum post today, World of Warcraft game director Tom Chilton announced that he is stepping down from his position. Taking his place as director will be Ion Hazzikostas, who joined Blizzard in 2008 and worked his way up from encounter designer to assistant game director and now game director.
Chilton has a long history with World of Warcraft. He joined Blizzard in 2004 as a senior game designer for the MMO after years of working on Ultima Online. In 2010, with the launch of the Cataclysm expansion, Chilton rose to the position of game director. Now, after nearly 12 years of working on the same game, he says he’s ready for something different.
"My personal journey working on WoW as Game Director is at an end, but my journey with Blizzard isn’t," Chilton wrote. "I’ll still be here, but will be focusing on another project within the company."
Polygon reached out to Blizzard to ask if this "other project" was a new game or one of the six currently supported released games the developer has out, but the company declined to clarify further. "Everything we’re ready to share is in [Chilton’s] post itself," a representative said.
While we may not know what he’s up to next, it’s notable that virtually all of Chilton’s nearly two decades of game design experience is in massively multiplayer games. Previously Blizzard had announced a new MMO follow-up to World of Warcraft in development under the code name Titan. That game was canceled in 2014, and pieces of it were later salvaged and turned into Blizzard’s recently-released shooter, Overwatch.
At the time of Titan’s cancellation, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said, "I wouldn’t say no to ever doing an MMO again. But I can say that right now, that’s not where we want to be spending our time."
Of course, Chilton also has a lot of experience in the Warcraft universe. That IP started as a series of real-time strategy games, and fans have been clamoring for a Warcraft 4 for years now. With StarCraft 2’s third and seemingly final campaign out, it’s possible Chilton could be shifting over to help that team figure out what to do next with Warcraft outside of the MMO space.
Or maybe it’s something new entirely.
Whatever Chilton is working on, he promises that World of Warcraft won’t be slowing down in his absence:
"As a member of the WoW team, I can assure you that the future for World of Warcraft continues to be bright — and as a player, I’m excited to discover what’s in store next alongside all of you."