Hoo boy, things are getting very serious with the media debacle that is Infinity Ward and Activision. A group of around thiry-eight Infinity Ward employees have filed a lawsuit against Activision claiming the publisher has not paid the full amount of bonuses and royalities owed to the developer since the release of Modern Warfare 2; going so far as to say that Activision is intentionally holding the developer's payment hostage in order to keep employees working at IW to develop (and subsequently reap the rewards of) Modern Warfare 3.
According to G4TV, the employees taking part in the suit include "a significant portion of the members of the creative team" for Modern Warfare 2. Information filed within the suit mentions that Activision has paid Infinity Ward around $28 million for the game, but is charged for witholding an additional $54 million for 2009's profits, not including amounts yet to be payed for the games success in 2010. In addition to the money owed, the IW employees are seeking anywhere from $75 million to $500 million in punitive damages. The suit also mentions Activision's breach of contract by failing to pay terminated or departing employees their due within seventy-two hours of their end of employment.
As predicted, more senior staff have parted ways with the Modern Warfare 2 developer since the sacking of Infinity Ward founders Vince Zampella and Jason West. Designers Keith Bell and Charlie Wiederhold in addition to level designer Preston Glenn departed from the studio not long after the departure of five other senior staff members.
In addition to these three, five more left yesterday including lead character artist Joel Emslie, artist Brad Allen, weapons artist Ryan Lastimosa, lead programmer Robert Field, and Kristin Cotterell, who is actually a human resources and recruitment specialist. Don't they seek out new talent for up and coming developers by the way? Wonder where this is going...
With these departures and the ones from the previous weekend the total number of employees to leave Infinity Ward is around 26, according to Kotaku. No matter how Activision may try to spin it, seeing this many employees seemingly follow their former bosses out the door presents itself as a huge debaser to the publisher's claim that Zampella and West were schemers and scammers out only for themselves. Based on the snowball like effect of these departures its a pretty strong certainty that only more will leave.
Well, Infinity Ward is definitely bleeding talent. Five more employees have parted ways with the Modern Warfare developer bringing the total tally of deserters to something around 17 since the studio's former headman got the sack. The latest handful to jump ship include Senior designers Mohammad Alavi, Chad Grenier, and Brent Mcleod as well as programmer Chris Lambert and designer Jason McCord. Just as with many of the other departed no new comments have been given as to why they've left the company, though it may have something to do with Zampella and West's recent "respawn" in the industry.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that these aren't the last people we'll see leave Infinity Ward. In fact, with Respawn Entertainment due to get started sometime in May, it's wholly possible that Infinity Ward will have few (if any) of their original talent within the next couple months.
Infinity Ward is quickly loosing the base people that made the developer what it is today. According to Kotaku, four more key individuals - lead designers Steve Fukuda and Zied Reike, lead artist Chris Cherubini, and programmer Rayme Vinson - jumped ship yesterday from the billion selling Modern Warfare 2 developer. This comes a few days after former IW founders announced a the formation of a new studio, Respawn Entertainment, and publishing agreement with Activion's biggest rival Electronic Arts.
Its worth noting that Cherubini and Vinson were also developers at 2015, inc., the studio that developed the EA published Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. When West and Zampella departed from 2015 to found Infinity Ward the Cherubini and Vinson followed suit. Given the steady stream of resignation from IW since West and Zampella's firing its possible that more and more developers will continue to leave Infinity Ward.
Two more long time employees of Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward have departed from the company around a month after studio founder and co-founder Vince Zampella and Jason West were fired for "breaches of contract and insubordination." Lead Designer Todd Alderman, who played a hefty role in Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer and story, and Lead Software Engineer Francesco Gigliotti both updated their Linkedin profile to reflect their now previous employment with Infinity Ward.
There's a lot of ugly speculation surrounding the Activision/Infinity Ward sackings. Activision has accused West and Zampella for courting rival publisher Electronic Arts for other Call of Duty related games while West and Zampella has accused Activision of deliberately withholding royalty payments to the developer for their work with Modern Warfare 2. Legal recourse is still brewing behind closed doors and the determination between who is right and who is wrong can be decidedly gray.
Its likely that more people will end up leaving Infinity Ward to follow West and Zampella. When the two left 2015, inc., developer of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, a lot of talent went with them which didn't very well help the developer in the long run. If things keep up the way they are now then Infinity Ward will surely suffer the same fate.
Infinity Ward has finally put out official word on the incoming DLC pack for Modern Warfare 2, entitled the "Stimulus Package." The pack will launch worldwide on March 30 for Xbox Live. It will later be coming to PC and PSN down the line of course.
There's no word on what maps will be included in the package, but rumors suggest it will include five maps, which may include some familiar locales.
The hubbub of Infinity Ward and Activision is huge. Call of Duty creators Vince Zampella and Jason West have supposedly been speaking to other publishers. Lawsuits are in order, the two are now gone from Infinity Ward, and Activision may be searching for incriminating documents, alleging communication between Infinity Ward and other publishers, specifically EA.
But why would they do that? They left EA, created one of Activision's most popular franchises, and just released one of the biggest blockbuster titles to date. Doesn't that make Activision and Infinity Ward the best of partners?
Apparently not. When Infinity Ward's creators initially left EA, the current #2 gaming publisher in the world was in a similar position to Activision: at the top of their game, raking in the big bucks, and selling some of the hottest games around. But they were also controlling, and ended up making Zampella and West decide to leave, presumably because they are artists and creators, not marketers and moneymakers.
With that mindset in hand, they went to Activision and created Call of Duty, which became a smash hit and single-handedly killed the Medal of Honor franchise. Not only did it make bring Infinity Ward into the limelight, it helped propel Activision to the status they currently have now: videogame publisher supergiant. Ironically, Infinity Ward's success has been their curse. Each new game they bring pulls in so much money and demand that the publishers step in to make sure no mistakes are made.
So who's at fault? Activision can't be blamed; as a publisher, it's their job to do whatever it takes to ensure the games they publish make the most money. Infinity Ward, on the other hand, put themselves in harms way, for the second time. It's no coincidence that the two largest game publishers have taken advantage of the popular developer to make money, and the pattern is repeating now.
If Infinity Ward is indeed looking to EA for future projects, it makes sense. EA has for the last three years been very generous to their developers, and has also helped create quite a few new IPs. Activision, however, won't just let the developer go, and has a vice-grip stronger than any competitor today. Our only message to Zampella and West: make sure Activision doesn't find anything compromising. We don't want to see you go just yet.
[Update] It looks like CEO and founder of Infinity Ward, Vince Zampella, and co-founder, Jason West, have officially left Infinity Ward according to their LinkedIn pages. In regard to working for Infinity Ward, both LinkedIn pages now have an end date of March 2010. The reason behind the departure is still unclear aside from what was mentioned in the SEC filing Activision submitted.
Yesterday some news landed that some intimidating "bouncer-type" men had showed up at the offices of Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward. These men were tight lipped concerning the reasons why they were at the building which, understandably, caused some confusion and worry. Later, senior developers Jason West and Vince Zampella were noticably absent from the premices and following some news that the two developers had met earlier that day with Activision, in addition to an update to Jason West's Facebook status (posted by Kotaku) and LinkedIn profile, it appears the two developers have been released from Infinity Ward.
According to an SEC filing Activision submitted yesterday morning, a human resources investigation had been cited by the publisher concerning "breaches of contracts and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward." It appears one of those employees is Jason West, but at this time its unconfirmed if Vince Zampella was the other.
From within the report:
"This matter is expected to involve the departure of key personnel and litigation. At present, the Company does not expect this matter to have a material impact on the Company."
Details are sparse as to what sort of insubordination or breaches in contract took place here. Considering Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 is a money maker for the publisher you have to wonder what would of had to take place for Activision to cut out two of the developers behind the game. There could be a perfectly legitimate reason why these guys were shown the door, but little is known at this time.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is less than a couple weeks out, and the fists have started flying. EA has come out and said outright that DICE, the developer of Bad Company 2, is in a league of its own when it comes to online multiplayer. According to the publisher, Infinity Ward and Treyarch can't compete with it.
"DICE is at the forefront of defining the multiplayer and online vehicle warfare space and has substantial pedigree in this area following many years of success," EA product manager Will Graham told MCV. "We genuinely believe there isn't a developer out there that competes with DICE in this space, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is going cement that.
"The use of vehicles in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 sets it apart from the competition and no one else in the industry does this better.
"This is also something the core are very excited about: DICE's history of delivering a multiplayer experience utilizing vehicles is something that sets it apart from anything else in the market. It's also an element that fits with the increasing emphasis on multiplayer for gamers in general."
It's almost been three months since the release of Infinity Ward's record-breaking game Modern Warfare 2. Now that we are all sober, I would like to assess the current state of the game truthfully. (more...)