In an interview with GameSpot last week, Jason West and Vince Zampella discussed the formation of their new startup, Respawn Entertainment. Though the two ex-Infinity Ward leaders--who were fired by Activision last month--were keen to say they were hiring for their new independent studio, they dodged questions about whether or not any of their former colleagues would join them. "We'll announce the rest of the team at the appropriate time," said West.
That "appropriate time" wasn't long in coming. Following a flurry of resignations from Infinity Ward, many members of the top talent behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 are now openly touting their new gigs at Respawn. Lead designer Todd Alderman, lead software engineer Francesco Gigliotti, lead environment artist Chris Cherubini, lead animator John Paul Messerly, and lead animator Mark Grigsby now list the studio as their current employer.
Where exactly the quintet is working is unclear, though, since as of last week, Respawn didn't have a physical office. West and Zampella said they are looking at spaces in the same area of Northwest Los Angeles as Encino-based Infinity Ward, which would preclude any ex-Infinity Ward employees from having to relocate.
While many startup studios have talent, few have financial carte blanche to get set up. Not so Respawn, which has the financial backing of Activision's archrival, Electronic Arts. Less than a year after Activision hired away two top developers at internal studio Visceral Games (Dead Space, Dante's Inferno), EA Games president Frank Gibeau is not hiding the pleasure with which he and his company are bankrolling Respawn.
"We've reached an agreement where they have the seed money to get started as of today," Gibeau told GameSpot last week. "It basically gives them [a] sanctuary where they can really focus in on creative and build a blockbuster product. We're helping these guys pick themselves up and go kick some a**."
Under the terms of the seed money deal, Respawn's first title will be published by EA under its EA Partners initiative. The independent developer outreach program also distributes--or will distribute--such games as Harmonix's Rock Band 3, Valve's Left 4 Dead 2, Crytek's Crysis 2, DoubleFine's Brutal Legend, Epic Games' Bulletstorm, and Realtime Worlds' APB.