Studio head Rod Fergusson has announced he is leaving The Coalition and joining Blizzard Entertainment in March. He will be overseeing the Diablo franchise in a delicate moment for the Irvine-based developer, which is shipping the controversial mobile game Diablo Immortal and working on Diablo IV, which was revealed at Blizzcon last year.
Fergusson is one of the most appreciated individuals working in the games industry, and the news resonated on both the side of the fans and with his colleagues, with industry players like Xbox head Phil Spencer and Geoff Keighley reaching out.
Xbox, first-party studios, and Blizzard react
Reactions to the news came basically from anywhere and quick, like Microsoft Executive Vice President at gaming Phil Spencer’s, who has greeted the head of Gears and his personal friend just a few minutes after the reveal.
“Thank you for the passion and effort you’ve brought to Gears and Xbox and the work you’ve done to build the world-class team at The Coalition,” Spencer said. “Best of luck on your next journey.”
In an interview with GamesIndustry International, head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty has wished “all the best for Rod,” and recalled that “he has a huge amount of passion for the game and has shown a real devotion to the players and the community.”
“As we go forward, the studio is going to continue working,” he added, looking at the future of the development team and the intellectual property, and praising the timing of the move as the roadmap for the franchise has already been delined.
“We have a lot more coming up with Gears 5. We have new operations, content, and maps… we have new DLC plans. There’s a bunch of things that we’re going to be delivering for Gears 5 throughout 2020″, Booty told GamesIndustry.biz. “And then coming up more immediately, we have the turn-based strategy game Gears Tactics, which is content complete.”
Mike Ybarra, who has similarly left Xbox for Blizzard last year, also shared his welcome to Fergusson and remarked that “Diablo is in good hands” now that the team has such a notable veteran on its side. Blizzard’s Publishing Director Josh Kerwin noted that this is “great news for … Diablo.”
Xbox’s Major Nelson said, “thanks for everything” and joked about the opportunity to come and visit him around E3, as Fergusson will be relocating soon from Vancouver to near Los Angeles now that he is starting with Blizzard.
General Manager at Xbox games’ marketing Aaron Greenberg shared he will “miss … a friend” but that he is happy, and “fortunately he leaves behind an insanely talented team.” Cinematics Director at The Coalition Greg Mitchell underlined Fergusson’s “inspiration and great leadership … provided to us.”
Halo studio 343 Industries’ head Ronnie Boss reminded that they’ve been working together for around 15 years and that he will be missed, while Lester P. Speight, Gears’ Cole Train, shared an emotional message.
Call of Duty, Insomniac Games, Respawn, and Cliff Bleszinski weigh in
Reactions from outside of Xbox, Blizzard, and The Coalition, also poured in, from the likes of former Epic Games’ creative Cliff Bleszinski, who has wished Rod Fergusson well on his “new gig, brother.”
Bleszinski has taken advantage of the latest evolutions at the Gears development team to remark he is still available for consulting about where the franchise should lead next. According to him, he’s done that in the past already, but Microsoft never contacted him.
The Game Awards Geoff Keighley, who worked with Fergusson at the latest Gamescom Opening Night Live for a Gears 5 segment, also wished him good luck. Similarly, Insomniac Games’ Lead Character Artist Gavin Goulden did the same.
Treyarch’s Design Director David “Vahn” Vonderhaar, known for his work on Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer, welcomed him with a joke about stealing “all the good secrets” now that they’re on the same side.
And Electronic Arts’ Vince Zampella, head of Respawn Entertainment and Apex Legends, shared how excited he is to look at the direction Diablo is moving now that Fergusson is on board at Blizzard.
Rod Fergusson has started his career at Microsoft in 1996 and moved to Epic Games in 2005, where he began working on Gears of War. He returned to Microsoft to found The Coalition after a brief stint at Irrational Games for BioShock Infinite.