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Blizzard co-founder and CEO Michael Morhaime steps down

World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack will take on Blizzard's lead role.

USA - Business - Blizzard Entertainment Mike Morhaime CEO
Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty Images

In a news release on Wednesday, Blizzard announced that co-founder Michael Morhaime would be stepping down from his role as CEO. Morhaime will be replaced by Blizzard veteran J. Allen Brack, but isn't leaving completely -- he'll remain as a strategic advisor.

Few game companies have had as much of an impact on the industry as Blizzard Entertainment. The game's biggest franchises -- Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft and Overwatch -- are all practically household names in the world of gaming. Its games helped push the real-time-strategy genre forward, were pioneers in early online play and became mainstays of gaming culture.

Morhaime hasn't been listed as a programmer on a Blizzard game in over a decade, but he's been with the company since the beginning, when it was known as Silicon & Synapse in the early 1990s.

It wasn't long before the company evolved into Blizzard, rising to prominence with the original Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, Warcraft II and the Diablo franchise. The company went on to create World of Warcraft, the world's most popular MMORPG, and later merged with Activision to create the Activision Blizzard we know it today.

Blizzard has since expanded its reach into first-person shooters with the wildly successful Overwatch franchise and doubled down on esports initiatives with the Overwatch League. Not to mention its upcoming merch partnerships with Lego and Nerf.

"I want to thank all of the talented and hardworking people at Blizzard for their dedication, creativity and passion," Mike Morhaime said in the announcement. "It has been a privilege to lead this team. I'm also very grateful to Blizzard's player community for their support." Both Brack and Morhaime wrote statements on Blizzard's blog as well.

Blizzard has yet to respond to a request for additional comment on Morhaime's departure.