Activision raises guidance as more Infinity Ward-ers quit

Record-setting launch of Modern Warfare 2 Stimulus Package, continued WOW success boost publisher's Jan.-Mar. quarter; lead animation team departs.

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As if Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's record-setting launch weren't enough, Activision has also been reaping rewards off the game's first map pack. Last week, the publisher said that the $15 Modern Warfare 2 Stimulus Package had set day-one and week-one Xbox Live sales records, selling 1 million and 2.5 million, respectively. Notably, those figures don't include the PlayStation 3 and PC versions of the multiplayer map add-on, which are due May 4.

"Which way is the exit?"

Given the premium-priced map pack's unprecedented success, Activision Blizzard today said that earnings per share and revenues for the January-March quarter are tracking ahead of previous guidance. The publisher didn't provide specific figures, noting only its previous outlook of $0.20 earnings per diluted share on $1.1 billion revenues.

However, the publisher did provide updated guidance for its full-year earnings. Diluted earnings per share are now expected to come in at $0.49 for the three-month window, up $0.02 from prior estimates.

"We are tracking ahead of our March quarter outlook due to strong global demand for Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft and Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a statement. "We benefited from the record breaking launch of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map pack, which was previously expected to launch in the June quarter. Additionally, certain operating expenses previously planned for the March quarter will now be incurred in the June quarter."

Ironically, Activision may have gutted the goose that laid one of its golden eggs. Today, two more senior-level developers confirmed their departure from Modern Warfare 2 manufacturer Infinity Ward. According to the LinkedIn profiles of lead animator Mark Grigsby and lead character animator John Paul Messerly--listed as the only two animation leads in Modern Warfare 2's credits--both departed the Encino, California-based studio this month.

A member of Infinity Ward since the studio formed in 2002, Grigsby has been credited on the original Call of Duty through Modern Warfare 2. Also an Infinity Ward veteran, Messerly joined the studio in 2005, picking up credits on Call of Duty 2, Modern Warfare, and Modern Warfare 2.

Grigsby and Messerly's departures are just two in a string of high-profile departures from Infinity Ward following Activision's decision to fire studio head Vince Zampella and game director Jason West in March. The studio has seen the departure of its entire lead design team, as well as senior-level programmers and artists.

The departures come despite Activision's stated intent to reallocate Modern Warfare 2 bonuses previously intended for West and Zampella to "those employees responsible for the success of the game who remain employees of the company." However, disbursal will only come if Activision prevails in its counterclaim against West and Zampella's initial $36 million suit against the company.

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