In a post on the official World of Warcraft forums, Jeffery “Tigole” Kaplan, the game’s Lead Designer, announced that he would be stepping down from the position – and moving to work full-time on Blizzard’s as-of-yet-unannounced “next-gen” MMO.

It’s been no secret that Kaplan – who found himself at the helm of the world’s most successful MMORPG because he played EverQuest too damn much (no, seriously) – has been involved in the mysterious new project that the Irvine, CA-based developer is keeping firmly under wraps. However, during that time, he’d also still been primarily working on WoW, making sure that Wrath of the Lich King was in proper shape.

Kaplan assured fans of the game that he’d still be involved in the evolution of Warcraft going forward, though he’d be leaving the day-to-day business in the capable hands of Tom “Kalgan” Chilton and J. Allen “J. Allen Brack” Brack. Nor did it mean he was any less enthusiastic about the world of Warcraft:

When all is said and done, WoW is still my favorite game. I play it every day. None of that passion is gone. If anything, it fuels the challenge of making our next MMO even better. We know we have some big shoes to fill.

This is the first concrete information – of any sort – that we’ve received about the top-secret MMO project in quite some time, and it’s enough to make one think. You don’t take the head honcho off your most successful (and profitable) title unless there’s a very good reason for it. One can speculate, then, that this means that Blizzard is ramping up development on the unannounced title … perhaps for an unveiling in 2009 a la StarCraft II at the Seoul Worldwide Invitational 2007 and Diablo III at the Paris Worldwide Invitational 2008?

So, what do we think. Is it going to be Universe of StarCraft or what?

(Via MTV Multiplayer)


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