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Sources told Polygon that employees at Vicarious Visions were informed on Wednesday (October 27) that the studio would lose its name. The move is said to be part of the ongoing repositioning of the developer within the larger business, which has seen the studio entrenched as a support team for Blizzard projects including Diablo II: Resurrected.
Founded in 1991 by brothers Karthik Bala and Guha Bala, Vicarious Visions became well known for its work on handheld ports of console games, including bringing the 2000 Spider-Man to Game Boy Color and early entries in Neversoft’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series to Game Boy Advance.
The studio was acquired by Activision in 2005, where it initially worked on more handheld games, including the Guitar Hero series and the Nintendo 3DS releases of several Skylanders games. It also served as the lead developer for 2013’s Skylanders: Swap Force and 2015’s Skylanders: SuperChargers. More recently, Vicarious Visions helmed the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 remakes.
The decision to merge the team into Blizzard was taken in January 2021, with the publisher saying at the time that Vicarious Vision’s team of 200 people will now be employees of Blizzard, and will be “fully dedicated to existing Blizzard games and initiatives”.
Employees told Polygon that despite the merger, they expected Vicarious Visions would retain its own studio identity. Others criticised the delivery and timing of informing staff of the decision, which is said to have taken place during a Halloween event with many employees in fancy dress.
While one employee said that they felt the “writing was on the wall”, another criticised that “for all of the leadership’s talk about being more transparent in response to the lawsuit and resulting fiasco, the fact they decided to blindside us all with this feels about as far from transparent as you can get.”
While no new name has been suggested for the studio, some staff speculate that Vicarious Visions will be rebranded “Blizzard Albany”, following the naming pattern of other subsidiary studios named after their location, such as Blizzard Austin.
In related news, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has published an open letter to employees, outlining a five-point plan to address alleged problems regarding harassment and equality at the company, and slashing his own pay package to California’s minimum salary limit until such targets are met.