This past week Blizzard announced a survival game set in an all-new universe. There were almost no other details about it and it was described as being at an "early stage", but it seems the studio have been working on it for close to five years already.
Although the announcement didn't come with much more than a couple pieces of concept art, Blizzard employees have been able to talk about their involvement with the game on social media. They're still not sharing any details, but we know that the project is being led by Craig Amai, who said the project began as a "humble pitch deck on my desktop":
Once upon a time this dream project was humble pitch deck on my desktop. Now it’s a team full of caring and passionate people sharing a vision I couldn’t be prouder to be part of.https://t.co/dCumH9yoEm— Craig Amai 💙 (@craig_amai) January 25, 2022
PC Gamer then spotted that Amai's LinkedIn account states that he's been project lead on the "Unannounced Survival Game" since July 2017, 4 years and 7 months ago. Amai had previously been a senior game designer and lead quest designer on World Of Warcraft.
Five years isn't an unusual or troubling amount of time. Video games take a long time to make and can remain in pre-production for years while a development team works out what they're creating. Its recent announcement came paired with a call for new people to join the team, which presumably indicates some confidence in the project's direction. We also know that the game is playable in its current state, with Blizzard lead Mike Ybarra tweeting that he's played "many hours of this project with the team."
There's been no shortage of survival games to act as inspiration over the past five years of development, and 2017 was the year that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Fortnite and Breath Of The Wild released. It's easy to be cynical about a studio coming to a gold rush genre late, but in fairness Blizzard have a habit of making space for themselves in crowded genres through sterling execution.
Whether the studio is still capable of that remains to be seen. Over the past year, several lawsuits have raised allegations of a workplace culture of harassment within Blizzard Entertainment and its parent company. There's also the complicating matter of Microsoft's pending purchase of Activision Blizzard for $69 billion.