Top Infinity Ward devs fired for 'insubordination,' lawsuits 'expected'

[UPDATE] SEC filing reveals Activision is dismissing two "senior employees" of Modern Warfare 2 studio for "breaches of contract"; Jason West, Vince Zampella confirm sudden simultaneous departure.

In 2008, anyone who would've said Activision would be culling the studios behind the Guitar Hero and Call of Duty franchises would've been laughed off as a lunatic. However, last month Neversoft's staff was drastically trimmed as part of a large wave of layoffs and the Guitar Hero IP handed over to Vicarious Visions. RedOctane, which Activision bought for $100 million in 2006 so it could own the Guitar Hero brand, is apparently also being prepped for all-but-complete closure.

Activision is letting go of two top developers at Infinity Ward.

Having just finished developing the $1 billion dollar-grossing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward was considered safe--untouchable, even. However, Monday afternoon, Activision amended its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission to include a notice that two top members of the studio are being fired.

The filing read, "The Company [Activision] is concluding an internal human resources inquiry into breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward. 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." (Emphasis added.) Activision bought Infinity Ward outright in 2003.

Though it offers no names, the SEC filing appears to coincide with the sudden departure of Infinity Ward president, game director, co-CCO, and CTO Jason West. The veteran developer LinkedIn profile lists the studio under "past employers" and his end date as occurring in "March 2010." West helped cofound the studio in 2001.

West's departure was backed up by an unconfirmed screenshot of his Facebook page (sent to gaming blog Kotaku) that lists his status as "Jason West is drinking. Also, no longer employed."

Deepening the mystery is an as-yet unverified G4 report that paints a sinister picture of the day's events at Infinity Ward. Citing an unnamed source, it claims several weeks of "tense" interaction between Infinity Ward and Activision culminated in a meeting this morning between several studio heads and some publisher brass. Those heads included West and cofounder and Infinity Ward CEO Vince Zampella.

After said meeting, the Infinity Ward heads reportedly vanished--and a group of gruff "bouncer types" suddenly appeared on Infinity Ward's campus outside Encino, Calif. The source allegedly said the men refused to say why they had shown up unannounced, leaving the developers "freaked out."

According to Zampella's LinkedIn status, he is still employed with Infinity Ward. However, the iconoclastic developer has often criticized his corporate masters in the press, publicly declaring last October that "Activision…did not want Modern Warfare" and pressured the studio to make more World War II games.

[UPDATE] Vince Zampella has now changed his LinkedIn page to reflect he no longer works at Infinity Ward. His departure--combined with West's--casts doubt over Infinity Ward's upcoming "unique new IP" for which they signed long-term contracts with Activision in 2008. It also raises questions about the upcoming Modern Warfare 2 downloadable content pack, due out this spring.

Activision has confirmed another Call of Duty game will arrive during 2010, believed to be a Vietnam- or Cold War-themed title from Treyarch (Call of Duty: World at War). While that game will be unaffected, the changes lend some credence to rumors that another studio may be developing Modern Warfare 3, possibly the recently founded Bay Area shop Sledgehammer Games.

As of press time, Activision corporate communication reps and the lead spokesperson for Call of Duty had not responded to requests about the developing situation at Infinity Ward. The studio's director of communication, Robert "FourZeroTwo" Bowling, offered the following non-comment via Twitter: "I should also say, while I appreciate all the calls, tweets, messages and hearing my ringtone a lot. They're in vain--as I have no info."

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Discussion

592 comments
termadoyle
termadoyle

Way to go, you Activision bastards.

joey97
joey97

that guy looks scary :0

BlackMax65
BlackMax65

We just need to hit Activision where it hurts... In their wallet. Boycott all Activision titles until they get their head our of a$$es and start doing the right thing.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

Activision are being c*nts over this but, in the end, I think they'll realise they're losing out.

dutchantichrist
dutchantichrist

If only Activision just said, OMA/noobtubes commando, and spawn placements were their ideas, then even I would happily fire them.

wookieeassassin
wookieeassassin

EA, Activision, any of the big guys just need to have revenues drop a whole lot. Send a market signal. Don't buy retail. Send them a letter or an email or start a petition and demand for them to treat workers better and say that if they continue to raise their prices we won't buy them any more. A couple lawsuits that cost them a small sum of money probably aren't going to change anything. f you ever want change everyone has to quit caving in and buying games from them if they disagree with their practices. If people continue to pay higher prices they will continue to raise prices. You can't have an attitude that "not enough people will ever agree not to buy, I'd just be hurting myself by not getting to play it." That is the sure road to defeat.

wookieeassassin
wookieeassassin

Best way to tell activision to shove it for their stupid practices is to not purchase their stuff when they raise the prices and be vocal about why you didn't. If they start trying to sell the game map by map and weapon by weapon nobody should buy it. If the single player is only 5 hours long, don't buy it retail. Go buy it used or rent it. I know video games are enjoyable but the price continues to be raised because people continue to pay for them. Only when revenues drop do they get a market signal that they need to lower prices. Really though, people should say one of the reasons of loss of revenue is that people don't like how developers are being treated. You can look at it for yourself, people filing lawsuits for 80 hour work weeks at Activision without overtime pay, etc. Those actions are highly illegal and are tantamount to worker abuse. EA says they have a really nice campus with a gym, etc. blah blah, but if people are working 60 hour weeks and getting worn down it doesn't matter if they make $50000 a year or get all these "perks." I have a feeling a lot of these perks are just advertised as a way for them to say "no we really do care about employees, they are just whiners."

shivLasers
shivLasers

So first they pissed off the pc users by saying no dedicated servers on mw2, then they pissed off more people by adding $10 onto the price tag. Then they piss off the mw2 fan base on the ps3 side by delaying the stimulus package and making it 50% more expensive than normal dlc. Then they piss off the 360 users by putting the dlc out before the actual update. Now they are pissing off companies and shareholders by firing two people who have helped make them the company they are today? There is only one word for that, but I can't say it without getting moderated.

hywel69
hywel69

I wish ppl would stop buying the freakin COD games even if just to give bobby kotick the finger. BTW since the next one is being developed by some random studio...odds on it will just be a "re-skin" of COD. Modern Warefare

thibbledorfP
thibbledorfP

It is the height of unethical behaviour to try and avoid paying these guys royalties. They worked hard to make a game that made Activision a boat load of money, it is parasitic to get rid of them to avoid paying the due royalties. Atleast pay them their royalties.

maverick_76
maverick_76

The problem that arose was Activision has no vision, they would have been happy still producing WWII games, I guarantee this had something to do with Infinity Ward not wanting to develop COD MW anymore.

QWERTYCommander
QWERTYCommander

Screw Activision. You used to be such a great company (and the first ever 3rd party company). Look at you now. Despicable.

manga777
manga777

Can't they see no one likes Treyarch COD games Nazi Zombies=good rest of game=terrible

advanracer
advanracer

- BOYCOTT ALL ACTIVISION PRODUCTS -

BigBoss2014
BigBoss2014

well i hope mw3 will be better mw2, not the hardest challenge but still

nparks
nparks

"Insubordination" Activision Executive Translation: "We own the IP and can hire any underpaid devs to milk the franchise dry, so why are we paying these guys so much?"

DoctorCream
DoctorCream

Alot of assumptions here regarding who said what. All I know is that MW2 on PC ditched dedicated servers, adopted Steam as its friend management interface, and completely dropped the ball on any form of anti-hack software, to the point that 8 of every 10 games online now are hacker influenced. Selling hacks that spit in the face of VAC itself is becoming a million dollar business, and thousands of players tout lude obsenities even within their Name Titles online, telling IW where to go and how they cannot keep them from cheating. With the resources they pulled in from their $800 milliion dollar launch, this is a grotesque display of middle fingers straight to their loyal fans. Now they are pushing for MW3 to potentially include subscription fees (the reason steam was integrated as a test for MW2 for control and management), and more capitalistic plans to sell PC owners map packs. Charging us $54 for a 5 hour SP game, with a hacker run multiplayer community, doesn't seem to be enough. They want world of warcraft as a reveue model, but can't even prove they can use Steam/VAC to keep consumers from hyjacking and brutally adapting their own secure gaming content. If this is what the guys above were rebelling against when classified as insubordinate, their corporate guys need to be strung up from a tree.

Lifeshifter
Lifeshifter

@egmadayag Yup true true, but wait......a Medal of Honor reboot is coming! Great.......

Lifeshifter
Lifeshifter

@Ekustix Hardly anyone wants to relive WW2 lol but even seeing that MW1 sold more than WaW proves otherwise haha even more so now seeing that there is a Medal of Honor reboot coming is interesting......maybe that should be the new WW2 theme and have them stick with it and IW stick with MW @Allbritt0n exactly respect yo elders foo! @Everyone else lol yeah I wanna see these guys win though, they deserve everything they did when they filled out that contract to do MW2, getting screwed for whatever real reason they got fired is still BS

EoinDuncan94
EoinDuncan94

:-D I've anticipated this day for a LONG LONG time now... hopefully this'll see the inevitable end of a company that only cares about the money it earns, might even see the rise of a company that actually caters for their customers!!

lorenzoa88
lorenzoa88

Look we have no idea what actually transpired here. Maybe Activision is modeling itself after EA and ruining IPs, but the other side could be that the heads of Infinity Ward were insubordinate. I know if someone who was the head of a company I owned was insubordinate, I would not care how good they are at their jobs they would be gone. the problem is that we don't know the whole story.

Lov3IsPAiN
Lov3IsPAiN

OMG that's so pathetic . WTF Activision ??? :-|

knat4
knat4

wow I and I thought EA were the douch bags, apparently not. Activision currently takes poll position in the standings.

TWayne1020
TWayne1020

A statement to developers, REMAIN IN CONTROL OF YOUR IP's !!!

TWayne1020
TWayne1020

Probally the same things wrong here as is with all big companys in the U.S. today. Idiot Big Brass, who controll the money but have no insite, telling professionals how to do their jobs , because all they care about is greed ,money ,and controll !!!!!

amcne_91
amcne_91

@ shani_boy101 Witness the end of Activision? What an idiotic thing to say. The Modern Warfare series was successful, but they do a lot more than that. Activision Blizzard isn't going anywhere. It certainly is disappointing news for the CoD series though.

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

*facepalm* to Robert kotick and woah woah woah. They gave Guitar Hero to Vicarious Visions? isn''t that the studio that ran the once-great Crash Bandicoot into the ground? Kiddies, we have a treat for you. Witness the end of activision!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mlbslugger86
mlbslugger86

this makes me angry and sad both at the same time.

GamingBoy2009
GamingBoy2009

I guess this is the end of the COD series as we know it.

lightman3000
lightman3000

@DavidRI I agree 100% with you IW is done and so are the call of duty games. they were good while they lasted

DavidRI
DavidRI

That's fine, I'm pretty much done with repackaged and over-hyped COD games with spit shines anyway. They will probably move on to something new and better WITHOUT Activision.

CannedBullets
CannedBullets

Why didn't they get rid of fourzerotwo instead for someone who actually listens to their community? They were actually good developers.

atarigrad
atarigrad

Typical corporate america f' ups thinking they know more than the people who made them the money! God I wish all these executives would get sniped! This is why those who can do... and those who can't get promoted....

Nosferatu2894
Nosferatu2894

This is utterly disgusting. Activision should be ashamed of itself.

RTSgames
RTSgames

Not if they leaked it, and didnt say it was them they would never know.

toadman682000
toadman682000

Something tells me almost every future COD game will be shovelware...

XEKazumi
XEKazumi

I think Blizzard is the only studio under Activision that still holds all of it's own IP's and that's only because I think Activision fears Blizzard a little bit. ACtivision keeps this kind of crap up and they are not going to be around as a powerhouse for very long. Admittedly, businesses have got to make money but that's why you let developers spend time on product quality instead of whether or not they get fired.

tyco_ex
tyco_ex

I can't wait until Activision's poor business practices finally catch up to it and it fails as a company.

SolanOcard
SolanOcard

I remember when I thought EA was the devil... and I was excited about the Activision/Blizzard Merger. But now, I have a lot more respect for EA, but would love to see the flourishing of more independent studio/publishers.

blancobo
blancobo

Sounds like Activision just made a mistake out of pride. The truth is that these guys, creative minds, are not businessmen at all. And regardless of all we say, this is a business and it has to make money (it did), maintain proper PR (it did), have the guys from IW aligned with Activision (it did not). The reasons are there for them to know and for us to wonder. But instead of wondering , the cold hard facts are that in this business world, if things don't work out... some one will get canned. Sad story, on the brighter side... these guys have just been freed to do whatever they want and have been challenged by the situation to rise from their ashes(poetic I know) and think outside the box on some new idea. Good luck fellas, Activision failed, because it did not know how to work with you fellas, the creative minds. The heart and soul of every great new game out there.

Sir_Shoot-a-Lot
Sir_Shoot-a-Lot

I certainly can't predict the ultimate outcome of this, but it reminds me alot of the situation between NBC and Conan O'Brien...

Soapweed
Soapweed

Business and entertainment do not go well with each other.

Hurley_
Hurley_

@MasteroofZar You do know most of Infinady Ward USED to work for EA...The games were called METAL OF HONOR...then they left to make CALL OF DUTY for Activison...I doubt they're going back...

alixzibit
alixzibit

Video game industry has got a new hitler Bob f*cking 'Kocktit'

ZippyLemon
ZippyLemon

This is very, very bad. I believe the combined response of the entire semi intelligent gaming world can be summed up as "**** you Bobby Kotick!"