The project, which was code-named Ares, was described to me as “like Battlefield in the StarCraft universe” by one of those people, all of whom spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to talk about the project. The team had built prototypes in which the player, as a Terran marine, could gun down Zerg aliens, and there were plans to experiment with playable Zerg as well. Although one person who saw builds of the game last year told me that it seemed like development progress was slow, a second said it came as “a massive shock” when Blizzard canceled it a couple of weeks ago. A third person said it was “looking quite good.”
Ares first entered development in 2017 as an experiment to see what the team could do with StarCraft on the Overwatch engine. An engine is a suite of tools and reusable code that developers use to make games, and Blizzard has been hoping to move as many games as possible on the same technology in order to make their infamously slow game productions more efficient. (That plan revolves around the new shared engine that’s being adopted by multiple Blizzard projects.) Heading up Ares was the veteran Blizzard director Dustin Browder, who formerly led Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft II, and it was planned to be the next game in the StarCraft universe.
In 2019, the company will increase development investment in its biggest franchises, enabling teams to accelerate the pace and quality of content for their communities and supporting a number of new product initiatives. The number of developers working on Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Overwatch, Warcraft®, Hearthstone and Diablo® in aggregate will increase approximately 20% over the course of 2019. The company will fund this greater investment by de-prioritizing initiatives that are not meeting expectations and reducing certain non-development and administrative-related costs across the business. The company is also integrating its global and regional sales and go-to-market, partnerships, and sponsorships capabilities. As part of these restructuring actions, the company expects to incur a GAAP-only pre-tax charge of approximately $150 million, the majority of which is expected to be incurred this year.
We don’t generally comment on unannounced projects but we will say the following:
We always have people working on different ideas behind the scenes – including on multiple projects right now – but the reason we tend not to discuss them publicly is because anything can happen over the course of development. As has been the case at Blizzard numerous times in the past, there is always the possibility that we’ll make the decision to not move forward on a given project. Announcing something before we feel it’s ready stands the risk of creating a lot of frustration and disappointment, both for our players and us, not to mention distraction and added pressure for our development teams.