Ever since Activision-Blizzard was made official, nay, back even to when Diablo III came out with its auction house nonsense, Blizzard hasn’t been the same since. Many developers in the company back in 2010 onward felt this, which is why many of them have left to create their own studios, with their own freedoms and autonomy that isn’t available in the current Blizzard regime.
According to a Bloomberg report, most of these ex-Blizzard folks have formed game studios in Irvine California, the same state where Blizzard and its HQ campus is. This group is dubbed Blizzard 2.0 by the gaming community because they’re making the games Blizzard doesn’t want to make anymore.
One standout is last year’s Frost Giant Studios, founded by veteran producer Tim Morten. The team is making a real-time strategy game; the kind that Blizzard used to make and promote with StarCraft 2. Initially, Morten pitched the idea to Blizzard, but it was rejected because the genre doesn’t make “orders of magnitude” like with its other IPs.
But is Frost Giant Studios in a good place, financially speaking? Well, the company has raised nearly US$10 million thanks to BITKRAFT Ventures, along with other investors like Kona Venture Partners.
Of course, Frost Giant Studios isn’t the only company made up of ex-Blizzard folks. Former Blizzard chief creative officer Rob Pardo raised US$25 million from venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz and Riot Games to start Bonfire Studios. Hearthstone director Ben Brode left Blizzard in 2018 to form an independent game studio called Second Dinner. He managed to raise US$30 million from Chinese company Netease.
Perhaps the one big group that’s tying Blizzard 2.0 together is ex-Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime, who left in 2018 and formed his own company Dreamhaven in 2020 with his wife Amy and two dozen other Blizzard veterans. They’re operating two internal game studios and are partnering with other ex-Blizzard companies, forming a network of alumni who often collaborate. Dreamhaven is consulting for Frost Giant Studios, while Second Dinner invites ex-Blizzard folks and studios to playtest upcoming games. To quote Brode:
“We’re all super friendly with each other. We’re all trying to stay afloat, trying to do our best, help each other get there.”