Reports indicate that the relationship had become extremely heated between Infinity Ward and Activision, and it all came to a head last night as studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella have been forcibly removed. It got to the point that Activision sent security personnel to IW headquarters to enforce the change, a situation that few saw coming in light of their extremely successful partnership on the Call of Duty franchise.
Kotaku reports that Activision has confirmed their departures, and has established a new Call of Duty business unit and Infinity Ward’s replacement with Sledgehammer Games, the studio headed by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey who last released the critically acclaimed Dead Space for Electronic Arts. Stephen Totilo believes that the primary point of conflict was over the next project at IW, and notes that it was likely the Future Warfare direction that had been discussed on a now eerily prescient episode of GameTrailers’ Bonus Round.
What happens now? Most likely, a sizable chunk of the Infinity Ward team will defect with West and Zampella, now that Modern Warfare has been stripped from them and their leadership has been ousted. As noted by many in the media, this situation has some similarities to the circumstances behind their earlier departure from EA and the Medal of Honor series.
There may also be a spike in interest towards other products, such as the EA published and DICE developed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 which has the ironic release date of today. Whether they simply ride the wave of attention towards military shooter games at the moment or actually capitalize by capturing some of the now disgruntled hardcore gamers remains to be seen.
Long term, I think that West, Campella and whoever joins their next studio should look towards the team at Bungie for inspiration. They’ve established themselves once again as an independent group that enjoys a really close relationship with a publisher, but they have the autonomy to move on without Microsoft Game Studios due to the parameters of their partnership. It’s a deal that benefits both parties and gives them the right to go separate ways without the type of divisive and embarrassing conflict that went down between Infinity Ward and Activision, and a model that I hope they seriously consider.
It’s a pretty crazy story, and I hope everyone involved lands in a situation that works for them.
[via Kotaku: Scandal Hits Call Of Duty Devs: What We Know]