Blizzard yanks staff from console project

[UPDATE] Developer issues mysterious statement to inform public of internal "refocusing" of resources; Blizzard says displaced workers were "evaluat[ing] current console technology."

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Today, Blizzard Entertainment issued a cryptic press release apparently targeting those who are speculating about its work on consoles. Following "an extensive evaluation of the company's aggressive development plans," the traditionally PC-centric developer now "plans to strengthen its current development efforts by refocusing key members of its console team on other projects." One of the "other" projects mentioned in the release was the expansion pack World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

"By redeploying key talent onto projects that are currently in development, we will greatly improve our ability to deliver multiple high-quality games in the years ahead," said Blizzard president Mike Morhaime. "We feel that this is an important step to take toward achieving our long-term development goals while also ensuring that our future games meet the expectations of our players and our employees."

But despite the upbeat tone of Blizzard's statement, it didn't mention which console games it was yanking developers from. That means the announcement could either be about the staff of Starcraft: Ghost, which is on indefinite hold, or about the makers of another, as-yet-unannounced project. The news certainly won't hearten gamers hoping for a next-gen console edition of World of Warcraft, which, nearly two years after its release, remains the best-selling PC game in the US.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Blizzard's announcement hit newswires the same week the company posted a job listing for a level designer with experience in making real-time strategy titles. Though it didn't mention a specific platform or project, the listing asked for candidates who had experience with PC RTS toolsets, naming Rise of Legends, Command & Conquer, and Warcraft III specifically.

Today's announcement has also sparked rumors that Blizzard Entertainment might be getting out of console development altogether. The developer's carefully worded statement concludes by saying that "possible future console plans" (emphasis added) will be "revealed at a later date"--apparently opening the door for the company to exit the non-PC realm altogether.

[UPDATE] This afternoon, GameSpot was reminded by Blizzard that its focus remains on the PC. "The console team was working with members of other departments within Blizzard to evaluate current console technology," said a rep. "At this time, our focus is on the PC games we have in development. Any future console plans we might have will be announced at a later date."

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