Brian Crecente, editor-in-chief of game blog Kotaku, has resigned from the top job after more than seven years in the position.

Crecente, who was named one of the “20 Most Influential People in Gaming” by GamePro in 2009, led the gaming coverage for the site, owned by Gawker Media, for more than seven years and wrote a weekly gaming column for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Crecente said he would announce what his new job will be later in the month.

Crecente’s departure is one of a number of changes that have happened among the leading game news publications on the web in the past year. A number of journalists moved on after their positions were eliminated when IGN, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., bought rival UGO. GamePro magazine also shut its U.S. operations, laying off the majority of the staff. Also leaving Kotaku is Joel Johnson, editorial director of Kotaku and Crecente’s boss.

Crecente was on the list of the top 50 game journalists published by Edge magazine in 2006. Many of those journalists have since moved on to new positions. Some have joined the game industry itself. Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal, for instance, is a consultant for video game companies now, and Greg Kasavin, former editor-in-chief of GameSpot, is now creative director for Supergiant Games, maker of the acclaimed indie title Bastion. Chris Grant, editor of AOL’s Joystiq game news site, also resigned recently and joined Vox Media, the parent company of The Verge, started last year by former editors of AOL’s Engadget tech blog. Vox Media hasn’t announced a game publication but is believed to be working on a new site. Others who recently left top positions at game news sites: Russ Frushtick of MTV Multiplayer, Ricardo Torres of GameSpot, Russ Pitts of the Escapist, and Hilary Goldstein of IGN.

That’s a lot of turnover, some of it caused by firings, shutdowns or simple career changes. It’s hard to draw a conclusion about what this means for the ranks of game journalists, but you can bet there will be plenty to take the open jobs, as lots of folks want to write about games for a living.

A former journalist for Rocky Mountain News and other newspapers, Crecente spent 12 years as a police reporter, while also writing about video games. He shifted into full-time work at Kotaku in 2007, and he could be a thorn in the side of big game publishers. Earlier this year, Crecente got a scoop on the details of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 — including the full story and other details of the game — before Activision Blizzard was ready to release them.

In an email to Kotaku’s staff, Crecente said, “For the first time in more then seven years I woke up free of the burden of responsibility and credit of running Kotaku. It was an odd feeling. I’ll leave you with something I said to Owen (Good) earlier today, mostly because I love the idea of quoting myself….Also because I can’t think of a better way of expressing how I feel. I’ll get used to not being at Kotaku but only as a parent gets used to his child going off to college. It is bittersweet. Take care. Never forget your readers or your talent.”

Stephen Totilo, deputy editor of Kotaku, will replace Crecente as editor in chief. With the new year comes change. In game journalism, we expect to see more movement and shake-ups in 2012.

Joel Johnson will become editor-at-large at Jalopnik.