In a surprise announcement to Gamesindustry.biz, Activision Blizzard has revealed that subsidiary studio Vicarious Visions is being merged into Blizzard Entertainment.
The studio, most recently responsible for the remastered Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2, had some 200 employees, all of whom are now under Blizzard's umbrella. Activision Blizzard indicated that Vicarious Visions would be "fully dedicated to existing Blizzard games and initiatives." A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told Gamesindustry.biz, "After collaborating with Vicarious Visions for some time and developing a great relationship, Blizzard realized there was an opportunity for Vicarious Visions to provide long-term support." It is unclear precisely what Vicarious Visions was collaborating with Blizzard on or when their involvement started.
Vicarious Visions' studio head Jen Oneal will now be Blizzard's EVP of Development, working directly under Blizzard President J. Allen Brack. She will be replaced by Simon Ebejer, previously a COO at Vicarious Visions. The studio's physical location will remain in Albany, NY and there has not been any indication at this time that staff members will need to relocate to Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine, CA.
The studio was originally acquired in 2005 by Activision, well before the merger which created Activision Blizzard. They have worked on a number of the publisher's big name franchises including Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, Skylanders, and Destiny.
Food For Thought
Vicarious Visions has always been something of a "session player" in the games industry, better known for helping other studios with their work, taking the lead less often. That said, it's highly unexpected that this particular move happened. While the Activision Blizzard representative indicated the studio's been helping Blizzard for some time, playing coy with the details suggests this has been planned well ahead of time. As for what they might have been helping Blizzard with, the two big projects which are currently known to be in the works are Diablo IV and Overwatch 2. Either one would certainly benefit from Vicarious Visions' experience and resources, but folding them into Blizzard itself seems unusually drastic.