Four top employees of Blizzard Entertainment, the crown jewel of Vivendi Universal’s huge vidgame division, have left the company, VU Games said in a statement.
The four are Erich and Max Schaefer, David Brevik and Bill Roper, who the company said are departing to pursue other opportunities. The Schaefers and Brevik founded a development company called Condor that merged with Blizzard in 1996 and became Blizzard North.
It has been one of two main development teams for Blizzard, which has reliably turned out million-selling computer games the past decade, including such stalwart franchises as “Warcraft,” “Starcraft” and “Diablo,” their sequels and add-on expansion sets. Blizzard North developed the smash hits “Diablo” and “Diablo II” as well as the “Diablo II” expansion pack.
That record of hits has made Blizzard a hot commodity to companies considering buying Vivendi assets. Several suitors were believed to be interested in buying Blizzard as a stand-alone acquisition, but Vivendi has been trying to sell VU Games as a whole rather than allowing its best division to be cherry-picked.
A joint Microsoft-Take Two Interactive team had been rumored to be investigating a purchase of the VU Games assets, as had publishing giant Electronic Arts. But no deal for the games unit materialized by Vivendi’s own self-imposed mid-June deadline, and the company is believed to be including the games unit with the rest of its entertainment assets now on the auction block.
Vivendi only broke out the game operations as a separate division for the first time at the end of 2002, showing roughly $800 million in revenues for the combined game operations. It didn’t break out Blizzard’s individual revenues, but in a subsequent reorganization only Blizzard remained a separate unit within VU Games.