The stampede toward the exit continues at Infinity Ward, despite parent company Activision/Blizzard still refusing to pay the studio hundreds of millions in royalties owed for the success of Modern Warfare 2. The current departure list stands at eleven, not including the fired COO/CEO/CTO/CCOs Jason West and Vince Zampella. According to a source I know within Infinity Ward, more are likely submitting their resignations today, and even Activision has now admitted that it expects more departures, and will use their share of unpaid royalties to “reinvent the studio” with whoever remains. If anyone does.
UPDATE: as of April 23, the number of employees who have bolted from IW has reached 17, with at least five leaving today.
UPDATE UPDATE: the total departures stand at 26 as of April 27, with three confirmed to have joined West and Zampella’s new company, Respawn Entertainment.
Things are bad at Infinity Ward. Morale is zero, the “Stimulus Package” expansion for Modern Warfare 2 is an unmitigated disaster, several group leads have departed, the royalties are nowhere in sight, and sacked corporate bosses West and Zampella have already founded a new studio to be published by EA. We all know Activision will settle the lawsuits out of court, retain the IP for Call of Duty and Modern Warfare in exchange for X millions of dollars. The end has written itself before the middle. (Personally, I’m also betting that Activision concedes the right for Respawn Entertainment, West/Zamp’s new company, to advertise future games as “From the makers of Modern Warfare.” It will be a bitter pill, but if A/B insists on taking this to court, they might lose; they might also win, but it would be costly; and W/Z may simply insist on it or refuse to settle. Just a thought)
What surprises me, to be honest, is the EA thing. Infinity Ward fled EA and went to Activision not that many years ago. And while EA CEO John Ricitiello has been struggling to put the “Arts” back in “Electronic Arts,” his company has suffered heavily for its attempts at innovation and new franchises. He might be replaced, though I personally would be sad to see that happen. Admittedly, the EA under Larry Probst’s dominion – the EA that had its claws in Infinity Ward – is rather dissimilar from the current Ricitiello administration. But still, to scamper back to the publisher that burned you once seems… odd.
I think it’s safe to assume that West and Zampella were doing what their former masters are suing them for: that is, shopping Infinity Ward to another publisher under the A/B radar. And it does look like that other publisher was EA. But even while they were at Infinity Ward, it makes little sense that they’d go back to the other big fish, especially when it mistreated them so. After all, Infinity Ward has a pretty darn solid history and reputation. The Ubis, Take-Twos, Squares, and other medium-sized publishers in the galaxy would probably offer delicious incentives, and do have the money to finance a new big-budget Infinity Ward Respawn Entertainment production.
But that decision has been made, much as I don’t fully understand it. While I’m certain that the departed Infinity Ward employees are all under non-competes, these documents have historically proven nearly impossible to enforce in the games industry. I’m interested to see how many flee straight to Respawn, as most think they will, and how many decide to seek fortune elsewhere.
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