Fall of Duty

What One Former Infinity Ward Employee Thinks Of Ex-CEO Vince Zampella

What do Infinity Ward employees think of their bosses? We have a small slice of insight via a recent Linkedin recommendation for former Infinity Ward studio head and CEO Vince Zampella.

The recommendation was penned on March 2 (the same period when the original Infinity Ward news was coming to light) by Jesse Heinig, a production coordinator at Infinity Ward from 2004 to 2005. Infinity Ward released Call of Duty 2 in October 2005. Heinig would have been present at Infinity Ward during the company's hurried rush to finish development on Call of Duty 2 for Activision, a release timed to Xbox 360's launch that fall. The game was received to stellar reviews.

"I had the pleasure of working briefly for Vince and seeing his skills first-hand," said Heinig, now a freelance writer at WhiteWolf, the company behind a number of major RPGs, including Vampire: The Requiem. "Vince's history in the game development business should already be legendary. How he, Grant Collier, and Jason West forged Infinity Ward by turning around the talent from a team that was overworked and unhappy with their previous conditions."

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Modern Warfare 2 GamesCom 2009 Co-Op Preview

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 developer Infinity Ward, who recently lost leadership over an internal dispute with publisher Activision that's now in litigation, has last two more employees.

Kotaku originally broke the news, citing the Linkedin profiles of lead designer Todd Alderman and software engineer Francesco Gigliotti. Both Linkedin profiles reflect working at Infinity Ward as part of their "past" employment status. Neither has updated with their future plans.

Alderman has worked at Infinity Ward for more than eight years. Gigliotti had been at the studio for nearly as long, clocking in just under eight years with the Modern Warfare developer.

Infinity Ward Loses Two More -- One Lead Designer, One Software Engineer Infinity Ward Loses Two More -- One Lead Designer, One Software Engineer

It's unclear if Alderman and Gigliotti have left as a consequence of former Infinity Ward studio heads Vince Zampella and Jason West leaving. An internal Activision memo obtained by G4 indicated Activision suspected Zampella and West were in conversations with Electronic Arts.

I'm a little late on reporting this one, but I wanted to make sure G4 readers were aware of the latest developments. Keep your eyes on G4 for more, as the status of Infinity Ward changes.

Source: Kotaku

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

The lawsuits have begun in the struggle between the former leadership of Infinity Ward and the current owner of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 developer, Activision. Former CTO Jason West and president Vince Zampella have officially filed a lawsuit against Activision, seeking compensation for royalties related to Modern Warfare 2 and trying to assert control future of the Modern Warfare brand. Adam Sessler and I sat down to discuss the latest developments in the case, including the potential connection to Electronic Arts, in a new Talkabouts session.

Talkabouts: Infinity Ward & Activision Take It To The Courts »

You can also see Adam discussing the implications of this story on today's Attack of the Show.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Activision has now issued their first public statement about the lawsuit filed yesterday by the former heads of Infinity Ward, CTO Jason West and president Vince Zampella. The statement is below:

"Activision is disappointed that Mr. Zampella and Mr. West have chosen to file a lawsuit, and believes their claims are meritless," said an Activision spokesperson. "Over eight years, Activision shareholders provided these executives with the capital they needed to start Infinity Ward, as well as the financial support, resources and creative independence that helped them flourish and achieve enormous professional success and personal wealth."

"In return," the statement continues, "Activision legitimately expected them to honor their obligations to Activision, just like any other executive who holds a position of trust in the company. While the company showed enormous patience, it firmly believes that its decision was justified based on their course of conduct and actions." Activision remains committed to the Call of Duty franchise, which it owns, and will continue to produce exciting and innovative games for its millions of fans."

This comes on the heels of news that Activision is currently seeking internal documents linking West and Zampella to Electronic Arts and the possible creation of a studio outside of Activision.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Activision Seeking Internal Documents Related To West, Zampella And...Electronic Arts?  

Now that former Infinity Ward leadership Vince Zampella and Jason West have filed a lawsuit against Activision (those papers were filed yesterday -- get the breakdown here) the legal fight is on. I've since reviewed an Activision internal legal memo from a source close to the company that details what documents Activision is searching for related to the current litigation with Zampella and West.

Much of what Activision's looking for is standard for a legal dispute related to, in Activision's words, "breach of contract" and "insubordination." Activision also believes they're legally in the clear.

"The Dispute involves West and Zampella's management of IW, as well as the development and marketing of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 ("MW2"), and potential subsequent games developed by IW," reads the memo sent internally before the lawsuit was filed. "Activision believes that it has done nothing wrong and intends to vigorously defend any claims asserted by West and Zampella."

Below are some excerpts from a list of documents that Activision is looking for. Note the last one:

  • "Documents regarding past, current or future IW projects, including but not limited to any and all businesses analyses of future projects (e.g. Modern Warfare 3)"
  • "Documents regarding any potential 'spin out' of IW, including but not limited to any communications with IW employees, West or Zampella regarding forming a new studio independent of Activision"
  • "Documents regarding West and Zampella's communications with Activision's competitors, including but not limited to Electronic Arts"

Modern Warfare 3 likely isn't in development yet, but it's not surprising to see that it was already on everyone's radar. The memo seems to indicate that Activision may have suspected West and Zampella were looking outside the company.

More details as they become available.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

It looks like the former leadership of Infinity Ward are not going down without a fight. Former Infinity Ward CTO Jason West and president Vince Zampella have officially filed a lawsuit against Activision, according to a press release issued by their law firm, O'Melveny & Myers LLP.

According to the release, West and Zampella were terminated by Activision "weeks" before receiving royalties for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Activision purchased Infinity Ward in 2003.

"We were shocked by Activision's decision to terminate our contract," said West. "We poured our heart and soul into that company, building not only a world class development studio, but assembling a team we've been proud to work with for nearly a decade. We think the work we've done speaks for itself."

O'Melveny & Myers LLP attorney Robert Schwartz is suing Activision in pursuit of West and Zampella's right to compensation for the production and sales of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the contractual rights allegedly granted to the duo to control "Modern Warfare-branded games." If seems West and Zampell may be fighting for the right to create Modern Warfare games outside Activision or to prevent Activision from creating Modern Warfare-branded games. Until we have more details, it's difficult to draw a specific conclusion.

Here's the full passage.

"Modern Warfare 2 is arguably one of the most successful games in history and together with Call of Duty, has generated more than $3 billion in sales for Activision. In addition, Activision seized control of the Infinity Ward studio, to which Activision had previously granted creative control over all Modern Warfare-branded games. The suit was filed to vindicate the rights of West and Zampella to be paid the compensation they have earned, as well as the contractual rights Activision granted to West and Zampella to control Modern Warfare-branded games."

"Activision has refused to honor the terms of its agreements and is intentionally flouting the fundamental public policy of this State (California) that employers must pay their employees what they have rightfully earned," said Schwartz in the release. "Instead of thanking, lauding, or just plain paying Jason and Vince for giving Activision the most successful entertainment product ever offered to the public, last month Activision hired lawyers to conduct a pretextual 'investigation' into unstated and unsubstantiated charges of 'insubordination' and 'breach of fiduciary duty,' which then became the grounds for their termination on Monday, March 1st."

According to the release, the suit is alleging "breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrong termination in violation of public policy, and declaratory relief."

The implications of this lawsuit are tremendous and far-reaching. Stay tuned for more.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Near the end of Apollo 13, Tom Hanks (as Cmdr. Jim Lovell) was describing the events that lead to the accidental explosion aboard the Odyssey service module on the ill-fated 1970 mission to the moon. "It was a minor defect that occurred two years before I was even named the flight's commander," he explained. I imagine that's what it must have been like for Sony on late Sunday afternoon when thousands of PlayStation 3's decided to take a 24-hour break in observance of a non-existent leap year, programmed into the system without anybody seeming to notice.

There was a slim chance that the situation could develop into a full-fledged fiasco, and it inadvertantly pointed out the potential dangers of surrendering control of your purchased games to a central authority. 

Feedback -- The PS3 Clock Glitch and Trouble At Infinity Ward »

Then late on Monady night, things just got crazy over at Infinity Ward. But you've already read a lot about that. This week's edition of Feedback tackles both of these topics with Adam, Patrick, Abbie, Sterling, and myself rounding out the table. And to cap it off, we threw in our reactions to yesterday's new Metroid: Other M trailer. Spoiler: I hate it. But I have yet to determine if the hatred is rational or irrational.

(We're not usually negative people, I swear.)

G4tv.com's Feedback: Breaking the news into reasonable, digestable portions since 2009.

Subscribe to G4's WEB SHOWS Video Podcast:

In the latest edition of Talkabouts , G4 editor-in-chief Adam Sessler and news editor Patrick Klepek discuss the ongoing situation with Infinity Ward and Activision and the future of the Call of Duty franchise. Check out the video, and express your own opinions in our comment section below.

Just a caveat: This was shot a few hours ago, and more information has been made public since then.

Talkabouts: The Future Of Call Of Duty And Infinity Ward »

Modern Warfare 2 GamesCom 2009 Co-Op Preview

There's some understandable confusion about what's happening to Call of Duty after the Treyarch-developed Call of Duty is released later in 2010. I've obtained an internal memo sent to Activision employees at the same time today's news release went out that better clarifies what's happening to Call of Duty. Here's how it breaks down.

Treyarch is making the Call of Duty coming in 2010. Someone else (possibly Infinity Ward) is making the Call of Duty that's due in 2011. Sledgehammer Games' project is something else entirely.

The internal memo was prepared by Activision Publishing president and CEO Mike Griffith and in addition to citing Infinity Ward as "central to Call of Duty's future," it makes clear that Sledgehammer's "action-adventure" take on Call of Duty is separate from another Call of Duty game hitting in 2011.

"2010 is expected to be another big year for Call of Duty," said Griffith, "with Treyarch developing a new title for fall release, Infinity Ward's downloadable content for Modern Warfare 2 in the works now, and a new Call of Duty title expected to be released in 2011."

Here's where the 2011 Call of Duty and Sledgehammer's game become distinctly separate.

"In addition," said Griffith, making the distinction between the two games clear, "Sledgehammer Games is in development on a Call of Duty title in the action-adventure genre. It's an exciting time and it's the right time to ensure the appropriate resources are there to support Call of Duty's growth."

It's possible the Sledgehammer Games' project is also released in 2011 but Griffith seems to make it clear there will continue to be annualized Call of Duty shooters going forward. This "action-adventure" take on Call of Duty is in addition to that. Does that make sense? My head hurts.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

I've obtained an internal memo penned by Activision Publishing president and CEO Mike Griffith that just released to Activision employees at the same time as the press release about the future of Infinity Ward and Call of Duty. It's largely the same as the release that's available in detail here, but there's a key distinction in the internal memo: Activision mentions Infinity Ward's future with Call of Duty.

Even though Infinity Ward studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella are now confirmed to have left the company, Activision says Infinity Ward is "central to Call of Duty's future."

"Jason West and Vince Zampella are no longer with Infinity Ward," explained Griffith, reiterating what we now publicly know. "Infinity Ward remains central to Call of Duty's future and we rely on the combined talent, expertise and leadership of the team there for its success."

That seems to suggest Infinity Ward is on-board for more Call of Duty. Whether that's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or something else remains to be seen. Infinity Ward might not even know yet.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Activision Plans To Release Just Two DLC Packs For Modern Warfare 2

Activision has now officially responded to the reported shakeup at Infinity Ward.

The publisher has confirmed studio heads Vince Zampella and Jason West have left the company, but issued no other comment related to their departure. There was no mention of "insubordination" or "breach of contract" in Activision's statement.

Activision Publishing CTO Steve Pearce and head of production Steve Ackrich are temporarily in charge of Infinity Ward.

According to the release, Infinity Ward will move forward on developing two downloadable map packs for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, both due for release sometime in 2010.

Confirming what we already suspected, a new Call of Duty is coming from Treyarch Games later this year. What we didn't already know, however, was Activision's intentions for Sledgehammer Games (headed by former Visceral Games developers Glen A. Schofield and Michael Condrey) to release a brand-new Call of Duty game "in the action-adventure genre" sometime in 2011.

No setting or gameplay details were revealed for either upcoming Call of Duty product, but the "action-adventure" description suggests it won't be a first-person-shooter.

Activision also vaguely discussed intentions for the future of the series, which include pulling the Call of Duty franchise under a singular business unit. Activision also intends to "expand" the Call of Duty brand similar to what Blizzard Entertainment has done with its franchises.

This lines up with Activision's public intentions to eventually release a subscription-based Call of Duty game. According to Activision, this change "will include a focus on high-margin digital online content and further the brand as the leading action entertainment franchise in new geographies, new genres and with new digital business models."

"2010 will be another important year for the Call of Duty franchise," said Activision Publishing president and CEO Mike Griffith in a brief statement. "In addition to continued catalog sales, new downloadable content from Infinity Ward and a new Call of Duty release, we are excited about the opportunity to bring the franchise to new geographies, genres and players."

More details as they become available.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Yesterday's news regarding the departure of Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella sent shockwaves through the gaming industry. From developers to hardcore gamers, few people were able to contain their emotions regarding the team behind last year's biggest blockbuster game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. As the industry braces itself in anticipation of an official announcement from either party, many can only speculate and hope for the best for the development house.

As I glanced through Twitter, I came across reactions from many on the development side. Here's a few choice quotes that I came across (besides this one):

"Man. The goings on at Infinity Ward is just nuts."
-- Dave Feltham, Senior Designer, BioWare

"I hope they're all ok! I wish someone would saying something definitive about the situation," in response to Feltham.
-- Megan Sawyer, Environmental Artist, Bethesda

"Man. I bet IW execs Vince and Alex (sic) feel like they just played their own game IRL. All the way to the end of the level only to get betrayed."

"IW falling apart? Way to go Activision, you just shot your cash cow. Dumbasses. Respect for those at IW if true."
-- Alan Kertz, Sr. Designer on Battlefield Bad Company 2

"If anyone from Infinity Ward reads this, hang in there. This is nuts."
-- Casey Malone, Designer at Harmonix

"Thoughts go out to the guys at Infinity Ward."
-- Michael Heilemann, Level Designer at Io Interactive

"Infinity Ward drama = scary/sad. What's next? Miyamoto leaving Nintendo?"
-- Ed Boon, Co-Creator of Mortal Kombat

"wtf is going on? i go watch the hurt locker and come back from forgetting there's a world around me to emerge in bizarro world re: IW"
-- Arne Meyer, Community Manager, Naughty Dog

Who've you been following during the developments, and what's their response been?

Activision: Modern Warfare 2 Could Be Biggest

The future of Infinity Ward might be determined in the next few hours.

I'm told by a source close to the studio that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will address the development leads at Infinity Ward in a meeting in just a few minutes -- noon, to be exact.

It's unclear what the meeting will be about, but it is likely related to the apparent departure of Infinity Ward studio heads Vince Zampella and Jason West, as discovered earlier today.

After Kotick and company's meeting with the leads at Infinity Ward, there will be a second meeting addressing the studio as a whole. The details of that meeting are also unclear.

As soon as I have more details, I'll pass them on.

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

All Quiet At Infinity Ward Offices

The story of Infinity Ward vs. Activision is blowing up the entire internet, but things at Infinity Ward's offices are seemingly quiet. TheFeed's Jake Gaskill is on the ground with some photos and a report on what is (and isn't) going on.

According to Jake, as of now, there are no visible security personel.  The building will not allow any photography of any kind inside, but outwardly, it looks like business-as-usual. He knocked on the office door, and was told by an Infinity Ward employee that this was not a good day for him to speak to anyone.

Other than that, things are very quiet... for now. We'll keep you updated the second we hear/see anything else, of course. So stayed tuned to G4tv.com. Click the cut for another photo of the Infinity Ward exterior.

Read More »

Infinity WardI'm sure you're aware of the recently reported shake-up at Infinity Ward, but to give you some context, and an idea of the impact the news might have on Activision and video gaming in general, I spoke to video game industry analyst Jesse Divnich from EEDAR.

"[In an SEC filing] Activision called it 'insubordination' which could mean anything – it could mean they weren’t listening to or following policy or not listening to management," Divnich said. "In my opinion, I think it stems from the current contract between Infinity Ward and Activision -- what there is currently in development. It probably has a lot to do with what Jason and Vince’s plans are for the future of their Infinity Ward projects. They might not line up with what Activision envisions. It could be that they were looking  to start a new studio, or somehow break Infinity Ward off to work with another publisher. There are certainly a lot different scenarios."

Read More »

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