Jeff Kaplan Leaves Blizzard, Hands Overwatch to Aaron Keller

Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan has thrown in the towel.
Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan has thrown in the towel. / Photo courtesy of Blizzard

Overwatch game director and longtime Blizzard veteran Jeff Kaplan has decided to leave Blizzard. He will hand the Overwatch reins over to Aaron Keller, a member of the founding development team.

"i am leaving Blizzard Entertainment after 19 amazing years," reads Kaplan's statement.

Jeff Kaplan Leaves Blizzard, Hands Overwatch to Aaron Keller

"it was truly the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience. i want to express my deep appreciation to everyone at blizzard who supported our games, our game teams and our players. but i want to say a special thanks to the wonderful game developers that shared in the journey of creation with me.

"never accept the world as it appears to be. always dare to see it for what it could be. i hope you do the same. gg, jeffrey kaplan."

Kaplan did not share where he would land after leaving Blizzard.

Kaplan was more than the lead Overwatch developer. Through direct broadcasts and update videos, Kaplan himself became something of a celebrity in the community, as often as subject of memery as genuine adoration. His loss is a major blow to Overwatch, and to Blizzard as a whole.

Stepping into his shoes is Keller, a Blizzard veteran who's been with the company 18 years — nearly as long as Kaplan has. The two worked together closely on Overwatch, with Keller serving as assistant game director on Overwatch 1 and associate game director on Overwatch 2. He will now be game director for Overwatch 2.

"Jeff’s been a great leader, mentor, and friend, and he knows how much we’re going to miss him," Keller said in a statement.

"While I have no pretenses about filling Jeff’s shoes, I’m excited to step into the game director role and continue to be part of a team that’s putting all of its heart, talent, and focus into the next iteration of Overwatch, and I’m honored to continue serving this incredible community."

Keller said Overwatch 2 development was "continuing at a good pace."

"We have an exceptional vision we're executing on, the reaction from many of you to the updates we shared at BlizzConline thrilled us, and we have exciting reveals planned for this year and beyond as we ramp to launch. We’ll be sharing more frequent updates about Overwatch 2 progress and new features in the live game with you all very soon."